Sunday, December 19, 2004

U.S. Waters Down Global Commitment to Curb Greenhouse Gases

U.S. Waters Down Global Commitment to Curb Greenhouse Gases:

“‘This is a new low for the United States, not just to pull out, but to block other countries from moving ahead on their own path," said Jeff Fiedler, an observer representing the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's almost spiteful to say, "You can't move ahead without us." If you're not going to lead, then get out of the way.’

Because the United States rejects the Kyoto accord, it cannot take part except as an observer in talks on global warming held under that format. It has, however, signed a broader 1992 convention on climate change that is based on purely voluntary measures, and the European Union and others had hoped to organize seminars within that framework.

But the United States maintains it is too early to take even that step, and initially insisted that "there shall be no written or oral report" from any seminars. In the end, all that could be achieved was an agreement to hold a single workshop next year to "exchange information" on climate change.”

…Delegations and observer groups also criticized what they described as an effort led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the United States to hamper approval of so-called adaptation assistance. That term refers to payments that richer countries would make, mostly to poor, low-lying island countries to help them cope with the impacts of climate change.

The group that would receive the aid includes Pacific Ocean states like Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, and Caribbean nations like the Bahamas and Barbados. At a news conference here on Thursday, their representatives said rising sea levels, accelerated land erosion and more intense storms were already affecting their economic development.

But the issue was complicated by Saudi Arabia's insistence that the aid include compensation to oil-producing countries for any fall in revenues that may result from the reduction in the use of carbon fuels. The European Union, which had announced its intention to provide $400 million a year to an assistance fund, strongly opposed any such provision.

Harlan Watson, a senior member of the American delegation, would not specifically discuss the American position other than to say there are "always tos and fros in any negotiation." He described the results as "the most comprehensive adaptation package that has ever been completed," and "something that satisfied all parties."

The United States also stood virtually alone in challenging the scientific assumptions underlying the Kyoto Protocol. "Science tells us that we cannot say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided," Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for global affairs and the leader of the American delegation, said in her remarks to the conference.
con·cept: U.S. Waters Down Global Commitment to Curb Greenhouse Gases