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Archive for Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Global warming compromise reached; U.S. official booed

July 24, 2001

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— The 180-nation United Nations Climate Change Conference reached a historic compromise agreement on Monday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. But the United States renewed its opposition to the process, deepening its isolation in the international community.

The agreement, achieved after intense nightlong negotiations, was greeted with thunderous applause and cheers more reminiscent of the sports world than that of international diplomacy.

But U.S. chief delegate Paula Dobriansky was loudly booed by observers in the public gallery at the conference's closing ceremony when, after declaring the Kyoto process on global warming unsound, she said: "The Bush administration takes the issue of climate change very seriously."

President Bush's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol last March put the U.S. in a rare position at this conference. Normally Washington plays the key role in world conferences, but this time it mostly sat on the sideline, and the 15-nation European Union took the lead in rallying support for the agreement that was adopted without a single dissenting voice.

EU nations are expected to move rapidly to ratify the Kyoto treaty so it can come into force in 2002. Sources said Japan, Australia and some other countries may move more slowly but are likely to ratify it in the end.

Japan, Russia, Canada and Australia were, to varying degrees, last-minute holdouts that caused the negotiations scheduled to end Sunday to run an extra day. But a deal was reached mid-morning on Monday on the one issue that had the potential to wreck the conference how to deal with countries that fail to comply with their commitments under the treaty signed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.

The European Union wanted legally binding terms on compliance, with possible penalties for violators, and said it would not budge. Japan opposed this, mainly on grounds that such terms could have negative implications for other international accords.

European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom of Sweden said State Department legal adviser Susan Biniaz, invited to join the talks by Japan and other countries, helped find language that broke this deadlock. But Wallstrom also credited the Group of 77 developing countries, led by Iran, with coming up with compromise language that was adopted.

Under the compromise, talks will continue here this week and at the next climate conference in October in Morocco to try to find legal language to address possible consequences for nations failing to meet their obligations.

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