Environmental ministers from around the world took turns Tuesday,
pointing an accusing finger at the United States, blaming everything
from the cyclone in India to the poverty in Rwanda, on America’s failure
to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
Ghana’s Alhaji Farouk Brimah told the delegates assembled in Bonn,
Germany, that unless the Kyoto Protocol is brought into force by 2002,
this could be the “last human generation on this planet.”
As the two-week negotiating session on global warming draws to a
close, the urgency of finalizing the rules of implementation of the
Kyoto Protocol is the clarion cry of delegates from the developing
nations. The U.N. treaty cannot go into force until it is ratified by
55 nations that account for 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas
emissions. Under no circumstance can the treaty become effective
without ratification by the United States.
Speaker after speaker chided the U.S. for its lack of action on
global warming. “We must do at home what we negotiate abroad, ”
declared the spokesman for the European Union.
“We must negotiate abroad what we can ratify at home,” responded
Frank Loy, U.S. under secretary of state for global affairs. Loy told
the delegates that the “U.S. is more committed than ever,” to ratify the
Kyoto Protocol. “President Clinton has launched significant new
initiatives to complete the work begun in Kyoto,” he said.
This admission by Loy could stir a hostile Congress that has
stipulated that no funds be used to implement any requirements of the
Loy said that he believed the Protocol could be ratified by the
United States if two conditions were met: 1) reasonable implementation
costs, and 2) “meaningful participation” by developing countries.
Estimates of cost for implementing the treaty vary widely, depending
upon who is doing the estimating. “Meaningful participation” by
developing countries is a term yet to be defined, over which the
Congress and the White House have differing views.
A resolution adopted unanimously by the U.S. Senate last year said
clearly that the Protocol would not be ratified unless it applied to all
nations. That requirement set by the Senate is substantially more
stringent than “meaningful participation” required by the White House.
In an effort to aid the U.S. delegation, Argentina, Columbia, Korea
and Kazakhstan have announced that they would accept “voluntary,
non-binding commitments” to comply with the Protocol. China, on the
other hand, which is expected to surpass the U.S. emissions output
within the next decade, stood firm on its pledge to accept no new
commitments. Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment and Energy, Simon Khayo
Moyo, said that “calling for new commitments by developing nations is
not helpful to the negotiations.”
Italy, Germany, and France announced that their countries have
adopted an eco-tax on carbon as a part of their plan to reduce
emissions. Sweden’s Minister, Kjell Larsson, said his country has a
10-year history of carbon tax, and called for an international tax on
fossil fuels as a way to regulate its use, and to supply a stream of
money to fund sustainable development in poor countries. “International
responsibilities must take precedence over national desires,” he said.
Developing nations see the Kyoto Protocol as a cash cow. The CDM
(clean development mechanism) will provide money for projects in
developing countries that the U.N. determines to be “sustainable.”
Speaker after speaker urged the delegates to exclude nuclear energy from
the list of eligible projects. The Climate Action Network, the largest
and most power coalition of GAGs (green advocacy groups) present at the
meeting, is urging that nuclear, coal and large hydro projects be
excluded from eligibility. What is eligible, or “sustainable,” is an
issue that has yet to be decided by the delegates.
The high-level ministerial discussions will continue for another
day. The delegates will meet again in June to continue to reach
agreement on the rules of implementation. All rules are to be finalized
by COP 6, which is scheduled for next year in the Hague. Delegates have
set 2002 as a symbolic deadline — Rio plus 10 — as the deadline for
bringing the Kyoto Protocol into force.