February 28, 2007
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FROM VOLUME 9, NUMBER 8, AUGUST 1996
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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