Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Modest' but 'Solid' Draft Gives Hope for Last-Minute Deal on Climate Global-Warming Drama

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Modest' but 'Solid' Draft Gives Hope for Last-Minute Deal on Climate Global-Warming Drama

Article excerpt

Like any other activity that involves a deadline, concluding international agreements is a tense business. The endgame of the Kyoto global warming conference has been no exception.

On Dec. 9, the official responsible for drafting the protocol that 160 nations are trying to conclude here released a text that he said could lead to a "modest achievement" - a plan for developed countries to reduce their emission of three "greenhouse" gases by 5 percent, from 1990 levels, during the period 2006 to 2010.

But the top American negotiator, Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat, then said that key parties still had "far to go" before the finish of the conference Dec. 10. And environmental activists wasted no time in criticizing the draft for its loopholes and lack of teeth. As of this writing, it was still possible that negotiators would produce a substantive agreement. The release of the draft accord by Argentine diplomat Raul Estrada, the official charged with putting the document together, was variously seen as a sign of progress - or possibly an attempt to shame countries into adopting an agreement amid increasingly tense discussions. The countries meeting in Kyoto have been trying to agree on a binding formula for the reduction of carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists say may contribute to global warming. The benchmark has been the level of greenhouse gas emitted in 1990, the year the United Nations began to grapple in earnest with climate change. The draft spells out different commitments for different countries: The United States would have to reduce its emissions by 5 percent, Japan by 4.5 percent, and the European Union countries by 8 percent. Some countries have argued for this differentiation on the grounds of different circumstances: Britain and Germany, for instance, already have abandoned coal and other industries that produce large amounts of greenhouse gases, giving them a head start. The number for the US represents a larger reduction than the US has said it would agree to. …

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