Progress blocked at climate convention


By Tracy Sorensen

An international meeting in Geneva June 19-28 ended without significant progress on a draft convention to halt climate change.

According to Greenpeace atmosphere and energy campaigner Liz Smith, the US government's refusal to sign the Antarctic environmental protocol in Madrid was crucial to the outcome of the second session of the Inter-governmental Committee negotiating a draft Climate Convention.

"The US refusal to sign the Antarctic mining moratorium has made it clear to other nations attending the Climate Convention negotiations that the US will not give in under pressure", said Smith.

The line taken by the US at both international conferences shows, she said, that the US is determined to maintain its commitment to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

"As the biggest user of fossil fuels, US intransigence on carbon dioxide targets and reduction timetable makes it impossible to proceed with a convention which leaves them out. As a result, countries have been forced to water down their positions to accommodate the US.

"The meeting totally lacked the sense of urgency which climate scientists and the small island states demand. Meanwhile the climate clock ticks on."

Greenpeace launched a "Global Defence Agenda" on June 20 which outlines the policies needed to ensure national and global security in the face of the threat from global warming.

The agenda includes calls for a climate convention which will commit the international community to collective precautionary actions to halt global warming; a carbon dioxide protocol; and other protocols on energy efficiency and renewable energies.

"The Inter-governmental Negotiating Committee has less than 12 months to complete a draft convention to halt climate change. The first session, held in February, was taken up with procedural aspects; not a single article has yet been agreed", Smith said.

Meanwhile, the person credited with discovering the ozone hole over Antarctica, Joe Farman, announced in Geneva that the chemical industry's alternatives to ozone-destroying substances will advance global warming faster than the chemical industry has claimed.

Following the international moves to phase out the production of ozone-destructive chlorofluorocarbons by the year 2000, the chemical industry has proposed the introduction of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as alternatives.

Farman said the chemicals were not only ozone-depleting but "powerful greenhouse gases". For example, the industry's proposed substitution of CFC-12 in car air-conditioning with HFC-134a would lead to a doubling of the global warming already produced from CFCs in this application by the year 2075.