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Kyoto Global Warming Treaty Loopholes

United States, Japan, Australia And Canada Try To Maximise Kyoto Climate Treaty Loopholes

Lyon, France – As two weeks of UN talks on climate change neared a close, proposals tabled by the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada could allow industrialized nations to significantly increase their emissions of global warming gases, according to WWF, the conservation organisation.

Negotiations seem on track to finalise the Kyoto climate treaty by the deadline of November’s climate summit being held in The Hague, Holland. However, it remains an open question whether the treaty will deliver the hoped-for environmental benefits.

“These negotiations are supposed to be about making real reductions in global warming pollution from the industrialized world within the coming decade,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of WWF’s Climate Change Campaign. “The United States, Japan, Australia and Canada need to remember that protecting the environment is the goal, rather than protecting the interests of their own polluting industries.”

Three years ago, the industrialized world agreed to reduce its combined emissions of global warming gases 5 per cent below their 1990 levels in the period 2008-2012. Now, the negotiating tussle is over rules for operating the agreement involving provisions for trading emissions “rights”, conducting energy projects in developing and former eastern bloc countries and relying on forests as “sinks” to soak up carbon dioxide from the air. Ineffective rules would allow the main polluters to further increase levels of carbon pollution from burning oil, coal and natural gas while being able to claim they are meeting their reduction targets.

While it appeared in Lyon that the United States wanted to give priority to renewable energy, the detail of their proposal for the treaty’s Clean Development Mechanism contradicted this. The U.S. would like to gain carbon credits for installing dirty or unsustainable energy systems including coal, nuclear and large hydro power plants in the developing world. In addition, the U.S. persisted in pressing for “do-nothing” carbon credits for continuing with land-use practices that have been conducted in the U.S. for years. It remains unclear whether the U.S. will accept environmental standards for “sinks” activities that absorb carbon in vegetation and soils.

Japan’s main focus was on ensuring that rules for giving carbon credits would allow them to count the carbon absorbed by the country’s normal forest stock against half of the country’s Kyoto target. They also wanted carbon credits for planting trees but no carbon debits for logging. Japan continued to promote nuclear power under as sustainable energy for developing nations.

Japan and Australia are opposed to the treaty containing binding consequences for countries that fail to meet their commitments. Australia is also working to limit clauses that would make the emissions trading regime and the Clean Development Mechanism transparent.

Canada took the extreme position of delivering an ultimatum in Lyon that it would not ratify the Kyoto treaty unless allowances were given for controversial and scientifically-uncertain carbon credits from land-use.

Sadly, the main polluting countries were aided in Lyon by the clumsiness of European negotiators who failed to build bridges to developing nations on the Clean Development Mechanism and “sinks”.

“The Kyoto treaty should be the bare minimum that nations do to combat global warming. Instead, some of them regard it as good sport to find new ways of avoiding having to reduce pollution at home. Decisions to be taken by Ministers in The Hague will be the make-or-break for the Kyoto treaty,” said Jennifer Morgan.


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