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Emission reduction loopholes at forefront of U.N. climate talks

Source:  Copyright 2000, Associated Press
Date:  November 16, 2000
Byline:  Anthony Deutsch


Nearing the end of the first week of a U.N. climate conference, delegates remained at odds over how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses that are warming the earth's temperature.

Agreement on so-called carbon ''sinks'' such as forests which absorb carbon dioxide pollution and pollution trading, still divided Europe and the United States.

Smaller and poorer countries, often the most vulnerable to rising sea levels and severe storms that result from climate change, fear their worries won't be addressed during high-level talks next week.

''We are profoundly concerned and foresee that some of these measures could threaten the survival of our people,'' Rosemary Kuptana of Canada's Eskimo population said. ''Our fragile ecosystem is being compromised.''

Global warming doesn't just threaten rare animal species, she said, it can also wipe out entire nations that strongly rely on natural surroundings for food and shelter.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, reached in Japan three years ago, the world's political leaders agreed to lower global greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels before 2012. With that deadline nearing some say this is their last chance to act.

On the fourth day of the two-week meeting, pressure was high to formulate proposals ahead of the arrival on Sunday of ministers from around 150 countries who have to ratify a final deal.

''The Kyoto Protocol must be ratified as a first step,'' Kuptana said. ''The dramatic changes we see in Canada's North are a signal of what's in store for other regions of the world.''

Some 22 national delegates, representing an estimated 350 million indigenous people, are attending the conference.

As mountains and northern regions are exposed to higher temperatures, traditional cultures such as the Eskimo people _ numbering just 130,000 worldwide are forced to adapt to changing seasons and smaller ice areas which provide hunting grounds.

Recent studies from the a leading U.N. climate change think tank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict the earth's temperature could rise by as much as 6 degrees Celsius (over 40 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1990 and 2100.

Some 2,000 government negotiators from 183 countries are working round the clock to settle key issues which may determine success or failure in The Hague. The meeting is burdened with resolving technical details on how to stop the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.

Signs of climate change are becoming ever more apparent with severe flooding in Europe as recently as last week having killed 19 people and thousands more facing tropical storms around the globe.

A failure to hammer out the details in the Netherlands would virtually destroy chances of meeting the targets set in 1997.

A joint proposal from the United States, Canada and Japan on forest and crop management received cold reactions from the Europeans. The block of three industrial powers wants freedom to use credits from existing forests and farmland to meet targets.

The proposal would allow for farming and woodland projects that could enable nations to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide without having to curb emissions from factory smokestacks.

Another point of contention is the issue of credits trading whereby rich nations would be able to purchase emissions credits from countries in what environmentalists call a serious loophole.

''We do not wish to be museums for trees in order to allow industrial countries to continue with their pollution,'' said Leonard Nurse, director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit in Caribbean island of Barbados.

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Even a complementary bike wasn't enough to lure U.N. climate conference delegates onto a pollution-free mode of transportation.

Only six out of 2,000 conference negotiators had made use by Thursday of one of 200 free bikes offered by the city of The Hague for the two-week meeting on global warming, which began Monday.

The offer was designed to encourage participants to walk or, rather, to ride their talk, while exploring a picturesque city crisscrossed with safe bike paths. The six who borrowed bikes included one from the Netherlands and three from neighboring Belgium, another country of cycling fanatics. Delegates blamed the rain and temperatures around 5 degrees Celsius (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit), even though snow, sleet and hail doesn't deter hardy Dutch commuters and enthusiasts of all ages from taking their bikes.

''It is too cold outside,'' said Croatian delegate Jasenka Necak, adding that her hotel was too far away.

Nevertheless, the delegates did shun rental cars and taxis, preferring to take advantage of another free offer unlimited access to the comprehensive network of trams and buses.

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After four days of meetings, delegates to a U.N. climate conference remained at odds Thursday over how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses that are raising the earth's temperature.

Agreement on ''pollution trading'' and on so-called carbon ''sinks'' forests and other lands that absorb carbon dioxide pollution still divided Europe and the United States.

Smaller and poorer countries, often the most vulnerable to rising sea levels and severe storms that result from climate change, fear their worries won't be addressed during high-level talks next week.

Pressure was high to formulate proposals before ministers from about 150 countries arrive Sunday. It is up to the ministers to ratify an agreement.

''We are profoundly concerned and foresee that some of these measures could threaten the survival of our people,'' Rosemary Kuptana of Canada's Inuit (Eskimo) population said. ''Our fragile ecosystem is being compromised.''

Global warming doesn't just threaten rare animal species, she said, it can also wipe out entire nations that strongly rely on natural surroundings for food and shelter.

A joint proposal from the United States, Canada and Japan on forest and crop management received cold reactions from the Europeans. The block of three industrial powers wants freedom to use credits from existing forests and farmland to meet targets.

The proposal would allow for farming and woodland projects that could enable nations to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide without having to curb emissions from factory smokestacks.

Another point of contention is the issue of credits trading whereby rich nations would be able to purchase emissions credits from countries in what environmentalists call a serious loophole.

''We do not wish to be museums for trees in order to allow industrial countries to continue with their pollution,'' said Leonard Nurse, director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, reached in Japan three years ago, the world's political leaders agreed to lower global greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels before 2012. With that deadline nearing, some say this is their last chance to act.

''The Kyoto Protocol must be ratified as a first step,'' Kuptana said. ''The dramatic changes we see in Canada's North are a signal of what's in store for other regions of the world.''

Some 22 national delegates, representing an estimated 350 million indigenous people, are attending the conference.

As mountains and northern regions are exposed to higher temperatures, traditional societies such as the Eskimo people _ numbering just 130,000 worldwide are forced to adapt to changing seasons and smaller ice areas that provide hunting grounds.

Recent studies from a U.N. think tank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict the earth's temperature could rise by as much as 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1990 and 2100.

Some 2,000 government negotiators from 183 countries are working round the clock to settle key issues that may determine success or failure in The Hague. The meeting is burdened with resolving technical details on how to stop the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.

A failure to hammer out the details in the Netherlands would virtually destroy chances of meeting the targets set in 1997.

Nearing the end of the first week of a U.N. climate conference, delegates remained at odds over how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses that are warming the earth's temperature.

Agreement on so-called carbon ''sinks'' such as forests which absorb carbon dioxide pollution and pollution trading, still divided Europe and the United States.

Smaller and poorer countries, often the most vulnerable to rising sea levels and severe storms that result from climate change, fear their worries won't be addressed during high-level talks next week.

''We are profoundly concerned and foresee that some of these measures could threaten the survival of our people,'' Rosemary Kuptana of Canada's Eskimo population said. ''Our fragile ecosystem is being compromised.''

Global warming doesn't just threaten rare animal species, she said, it can also wipe out entire nations that strongly rely on natural surroundings for food and shelter.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, reached in Japan three years ago, the world's political leaders agreed to lower global greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels before 2012. With that deadline nearing some say this is their last chance to act.

On the fourth day of the two-week meeting, pressure was high to formulate proposals ahead of the arrival on Sunday of ministers from around 150 countries who have to ratify a final deal.

''The Kyoto Protocol must be ratified as a first step,'' Kuptana said. ''The dramatic changes we see in Canada's North are a signal of what's in store for other regions of the world.''

Some 22 national delegates, representing an estimated 350 million indigenous people, are attending the conference.

As mountains and northern regions are exposed to higher temperatures, traditional cultures such as the Eskimo people _ numbering just 130,000 worldwide are forced to adapt to changing seasons and smaller ice areas which provide hunting grounds.

Recent studies from the a leading U.N. climate change think tank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict the earth's temperature could rise by as much as 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1990 and 2100.

Some 2,000 government negotiators from 183 countries are working round the clock to settle key issues which may determine success or failure in The Hague. The meeting is burdened with resolving technical details on how to stop the release of heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.

Signs of climate change are becoming ever more apparent with severe flooding in Europe as recently as last week having killed 19 people and thousands more facing tropical storms around the globe.

A failure to hammer out the details in the Netherlands would virtually destroy chances of meeting the targets set in 1997.

A joint proposal from the United States, Canada and Japan on forest and crop management received cold reactions from the Europeans. The block of three industrial powers wants freedom to use credits from existing forests and farmland to meet targets.

The proposal would allow for farming and woodland projects that could enable nations to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide without having to curb emissions from factory smokestacks.

Another point of contention is the issue of credits trading whereby rich nations would be able to purchase emissions credits from countries in what environmentalists call a serious loophole.

''We do not wish to be museums for trees in order to allow industrial countries to continue with their pollution,'' said Leonard Nurse, director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit in Caribbean island of Barbados.

(ad/js)

The European Union rejected a proposal Thursday from the United States, Japan and Canada on how to cut levels of greenhouse gasses that are raising the earth's temperature.

The 15-nation bloc said in a statement that it opposes the proposal because it ''does not ensure the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol,'' a three-year old international agreement on reduction targets.

The rejection set the stage for a tough battle when environment ministers arrive next week the U.N. conference on climate change. They are expected to agree to concrete measures to combat global warming.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, reached at a meeting in Japan, world leaders agreed to lower global greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels before 2012.

The EU statement added that the U.S. proposal was too vague and ''open ended.'' It said that the proposal was overly focussed on short-term measures and ''does not solve remaining problems for the future.''

The U.S. plan, which environmental groups also harshly rejected, suggests using so-called carbon ''sinks'' forests and lands that absorb carbon dioxide pollution to help meet targets of carbon dioxide reduction agreed in Japan.

Some 2,000 government negotiators from around 150 countries are working round the clock to settle key issues such as sinks, which could determine success or failure of the conference.

The U.S. draft also envisions agriculture and woodland projects that would count as reductions in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide without requiring curbs in emissions from factory smokestacks.

Some industrial countries have such extensive forests that they could meet their entire targets without changing the release of pollution.

''We strongly support including sink activities,'' U.S. delegate David Sandalow told reporters. ''We believe this can be an important tool to fight global warming.''

U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they plan to meet half their Kyoto targets with credits from sinks. Otherwise, the officials said, the United States would never have agreed to the protocol.

Under the Kyoto agreement, Europe would cut 8 percent off its 1990 emission levels; Japan would reduce output 6 percent; and the United States would trim 7 percent off its levels.

''We are profoundly concerned and foresee that some of these measures could threaten the survival of our people,'' Rosemary Kuptana of Canada's Inuit (Eskimo) population said. ''Our fragile ecosystem is being compromised.''

Global warming doesn't just threaten rare animal species, she said, it can also wipe out entire nations that strongly rely on natural surroundings for food and shelter.

Another point of contention which will face government ministers in the second week of talks is the issue of emission credit trading, whereby rich nations would be able to purchase emissions credits from less polluting countries.

''We do not wish to be museums for trees in order to allow industrial countries to continue with their pollution,'' said Leonard Nurse, director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Smaller and poorer countries, often the most vulnerable to rising sea levels and severe storms that result from climate change, fear their worries won't be addressed during high-level talks next week.

''The Kyoto Protocol must be ratified as a first step,'' Canada's Kuptana said. ''The dramatic changes we see in Canada's North are a signal of what's in store for other regions of the world.''

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