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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d96aug56

A change in policy by the United States made headlines at the Second Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, held July 8-19, 1996, in Geneva. The main purpose of the gathering was to discuss further restrictions under the climate convention. Late in the conference, Timothy Wirth of the U.S. State Department announced that his country will now back "realistic, verifiable and binding" targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, not just voluntary approaches. This development broke an atmosphere of deadlock at the meetings, but came too late for participants to make any progress in negotiating future commitments.

Wirth said the U.S. had not yet decided on an emission target or timetable to support, but intends to do so within the next few months, in time for future discussions on treaty commitments such as the December meeting of the Ad-Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate. The U.S. wants individual countries to be free to decide the means by which they will achieve agreed goals, including measures that reduce mitigation costs such as emissions trading and joint implementation between developed and developing countries.

Environment ministers from participating nations met during the last few days of the conference, and issued a declaration that affirms the conclusions of the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has come under attack recently from some quarters (Global Climate Change Digest, News, July 1996). The declaration also calls for speeding up negotiations on legally binding commitments to the Convention initiated by the Berlin Mandate of the First Conference of Parties, held in the spring of 1995. The call for binding commitments was opposed by 14 oil producing states including Russia, and by Australia and New Zealand.

A statement supported by over 100 European and American scientists, released in Geneva during the conference, condemns proposals to reduce global warming, saying that there is still no scientific consensus on climate change. The statement emerged from a recent conference held by the European Academy for Environmental Affairs in Leipzig, Germany.

Sources (all 1996): Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 587-588, July 10; ibid., pp. 637-639, July 24; ibid., pp. 681-682 (text of the ministerial declaration); Nature, p. 287, July 25; feature report in Global Environ. Change Rep., pp. 1-3, July 26; Science News, p. 54, July 27; New Scientist, p. 3, July 27 (editorial on John Gummer's strong call for action at the conference); Chem. Eng. News, pp. 21-22, Aug. 5; Mining Week (Natl. Mining Assoc.), July 22.

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