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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
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Item #d98jul112

The many issues left unresolved after the Kyoto meeting have been under intense discussion over the past few months, particularly at U.N.-sponsored meetings held in Bonn, Germany, in June. Of greatest concern are mechanisms (such as emissions trading and emissions offset projects) that would give industrialized countries flexibility in meeting their treaty commitments.

An earlier series of meetings billed as "emissions trading week," held in London during the week of May 11, indicated that market-based mechanisms and other forms of flexibility are gaining acceptance, according to Global Environ. Change Rep. (pp. 1-3, May 22, 1998). A few days later, the G-8 industrial countries agreed at their annual summit to focus on such market mechanisms. (Intl. Environ. Rptr., p. 506, May 27.)

But the Bonn meetings made little headway in reaching agreement over a trading program. The European Union and Eastern European countries want to limit the amount of emissions trading industrialized countries can use to satisfy their treaty commitments; the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and other countries oppose any limit. After the Bonn meetings, Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the climate convention, doubted that countries would resolve the issue even at the Fourth Conference of Parties to the convention. (See Intl. Environ. Rptr., pp. 607-608, June 24.) That meeting will be held November 2-13 in Buenos Aires.

There were however some positive developments at Bonn, according to U.S. negotiator Mark Hambley (ibid.). Many countries, including developing ones, are now reacting positively to flexible, market-based instruments such as emission trading and the Clean Development Mechanism (a clearinghouse for emission offset projects in developing countries). Second, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was directed to investigate how changes in land use and forestry can offset greenhouse gas emissions. (For a discussion of "forest credits" see Environ. Sci. & Technol., p. 125A, Mar. 1, 1998.) Third, a new group of industrialized countries has formed and proven itself effective in climate change negotiations. Here Hambley was referring to a proposal on emission trading offered by the U.S. and nine other countries.

Both environmental and industry groups were pleased that the Bonn meetings were open, in contrast to previous negotiations. Industry representatives were particularly encouraged by the improved attitudes of negotiators toward emission trading.

In late April 1998, Japan became the first major industrialized country to sign the Kyoto Protocol, followed by the European Union and Canada. China became the 37th country to sign a month later. This raises the pressure on the U.S. to sign as well, but the U.S. Senate still opposes the treaty unless it also requires developing countries to participate substantially.

For detailed coverage of treaty developments, see the official U.N. Website (; the Weathervane Web site of Resources for the Future (, and Global Change Electronic Edition (

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