The Guardian November 29, 2000


Climate talks end unsatisfactorily

by Kerry Ans

This past week's negotiations at the Hague on the Kyoto Greenhouse Protocol 
have ended unsatisfactorily, as far as real reductions in six greenhouse 
gas emissions is concerned.

The talks were aimed at negotiating the implementation of the 1996 Kyoto 
Protocol, but one of the main stumbling blocks to a progressive agreement 
has been the position taken by the US negotiators.

The US put forward a proposal on the use of "sinks" (vegetation which 
absorbs carbon from the atmosphere) which was rejected by the European 
Union negotiators as "escape routes from commitments".

The US position is broadly supported by Australia, Japan and Canada, and is 
characterised by demands for unlimited carbon trading (for example, trade-
offs for the right to certain emissions against financial assistance for 
developing country's efforts to reduce emissions).

The EU grouping doesn't support the use of such trading, especially the use 
of "sinks" as part of such trading.

A third grouping, consisting of China and the G77 developing countries want 
compensation for the cost of complying with any final agreements.

A coalition of Greens Parties from across the world, who were attending the Šconference, called for the ratification of the Protocol, even if the US 
doesn't sign.

They claimed a strong treaty without the US was preferable to a weak one 
with its signature.

The Greens also called for the inclusion of aircraft emissions in the 
agreement and the exclusion of nuclear power from the list of clean energy 
sources encouraged in the agreement.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), world emissions of 
carbon dioxide are going to rise by 60 per cent between 1997 and 2010, 
despite climate policies introduced in the past three years.

About two thirds of the increase in world energy use is set to come from 
developing countries, particularly from China.

The urgency of the need to come to a progressive agreement is obvious. 
According to the IEA's projections, northern America (in particular), the 
wealthier Pacific countries, and to a lesser extent western Europe, will 
have great difficulty just meeting the current modest Kyoto Protocol 
targets.

A World Bank sponsored study on the potential effects of global climate 
change on small island states in the Pacific, released at the talks, 
indicated there would be significant social and economic impacts on these 
islands.

This type of study, supported by other scientific reports made available to 
negotiators by the environmental lobbyists at the Hague, does little to 
change the position of the most powerful groups.

Such environmental science hits up against the driving need for capitalist 
companies and their government supporters to continue current production 
techniques (to maximise the life of equipment), current de-forestation 
rates, and current production of commodities for profit — useless or 
otherwise, as long as investment levels are maintained.

Whilst the Hague talks are important for the slowing of the dangerous 
climate changes we now face, it is akin to tinkering around the edges of 
the major problem.

The environmental limits of capitalist production are fast becoming 
obvious.

The longer-term solution to the global warming problem has to be a system 
of publicly owned productive capacity that produces all ordinary peoples' 
real and basic needs, not for profit, and in as environmentally safe a way 
as technology allows.

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