US stonewalls on climate talks

Issue 

VIRGINIA, USA February 14 — The first session of negotiations on a global climate convention was a "diplomatic disaster", according to an international Greenpeace delegation attending the 10-day meeting in Chantilly, Virginia. The negotiations were held in the face of clear conclusions from an international panel of government scientists that deep cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are urgently needed to halt global warming.

"The failure of the meeting to engage in serious negotiations on emissions reduction targets amounted to a false start in the race to protect the earth's climate", said Paul Hohnen, head of the Greenpeace delegation.

As host country, and the world's largest emitter of CO2, the US took a position in these meetings that was particularly disappointing. The Bush administration opposed the five elements fundamental to the development of an agreement to protect the world's climate. The US position was:

  • No to a commitment to halt global warming;

  • No to a commitment to cut CO2 emissions as the leading priority. CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels accounts for half of global warming.

  • No to new funds and technological assistance to developing countries to assist their efforts to combat global warming, although their contribution to warming is projected to accelerate;

  • No to proposals for new international institutions to improve global warming science and encourage international participation in anti-warming policies; and

  • No to adequate financial help for developing countries to attend negotiating sessions.

"In its refusal to even begin to address these problems, the US has sent the wrong message to the developing world", said Peg Stevenson, director of Greenpeace USA's atmosphere and energy campaign.

"The US position was interpreted by many developing nations as an 'every man for himself' policy. Island countries in particular were angry and frustrated at the Bush administration's 'sink-or-swim' policy towards the low-lying and island states." Many island nations will be completely underwater if sea levels rise as predicted.

These negotiations follow three years of intensive international scientific investigations on climate change under the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Its report last August concluded that the world's climate is on course in the next few decades for a temperature rise unprecedented in the past 10,000 years unless emissions of greenhouse gases are cut. Their findings were endorsed in November 1990 by more than 700 international experts from 130 countries participating in the scientific and technical sessions of the Second World Climate Conference.

"The reasons for US foot-dragging are painfully obvious", said Stevenson. The US is:

  • the world's largest consumer of oil (26% in 1989);

  • the world's largest importer of oil (24% of US imports came from the Middle East in 1989)

  • the world's largest producer of coal

  • the world's second largest producer of gas

  • the world's largest emitter of CO2 from coal, oil, and gas (22% of total global emissions). — Greenpeace US/PEGASUSUS