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Item #d95may104

Representatives of the 128 signatory countries of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (Conference of Parties) held their first general meeting in Berlin, March 28 to April 7. After extensive debate, they agreed to begin a two-year negotiation process that will establish legally binding targets and timetables for greenhouse gas emissions after the year 2000. This "Berlin mandate," a compromise reached unanimously on the final day, acknowledges that the present convention does not go far enough in urging signatories to return greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

The mandate closely reflects the position of the European Union, but disappointed the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) and many environmental groups, who were hoping a binding protocol with targets and timetables would emerge from the meeting. Also in favor of further emission restrictions is the insurance industry; insurers and bankers discussed their concerns over increasing losses associated with natural disasters at a conference organized by Greenpeace the day before the meeting began. (See Global Environ. Change Rep., p. 6, Apr. 14.) Opposing specific limits (now or later) were many business interests in the U.S., including those represented by the Global Climate Coalition, and most oil exporting states.

Two subsidiary bodies to the Conference of Parties were established. One will advise on national implementation of the convention; the other will convey scientific and technical information. The latter may rely on information from any qualified scientific or technical group, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will remain in existence and is preparing its second scientific assessment, to be released in the fall.

The mandate also establishes a pilot phase for joint implementation projects between countries, and specifies guidelines for them. However, developed countries will not be able to take credit against their emission reduction goals through such projects during this phase. Results will be reviewed in 1999.

For accounts of the Berlin meeting see Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 283-285, Apr. 19; Nature, pp. 584-585, Apr. 13 (related editorial on treaty requirements for poor countries, p. 483, Apr. 6); New Scientist, p. 4, Apr. 15 (related editorial on p. 3); Chem. & Industry, p. 287, Apr. 17; Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, Apr. 14.

Related articles on IPCC activities are in Nature, pp. 584-585, Apr. 13, and New Scientist, p. 4, Apr. 8.

A pro/con discussion on the adequacy of the current convention commitments appears in the current Climate Change Bulletin, available at no charge from IUCC, UNEP, Geneva Exec. Ctr., CP 356, 1219 Châtelaine, Switz.

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