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S P E C I A L The Global Warming Debate

Global warming pact approved

Delegates
Delegates reach agreement on how to control "greenhouse" gases   

Developing nations face few restrictions

In this story: December 11, 1997
Web posted at: 9:18 a.m. EST (1418 GMT)

KYOTO, Japan (CNN) -- After 11 days of intense wrangling over the details, delegates to an international conference on global warming gave final approval Thursday to a landmark agreement that limits emissions of so-called "greenhouse" gases.

But the pact, approved by delegates from 150 nations, immediately was denounced by Republican critics in Congress who predicted it would never be ratified by the U.S. Senate.

The treaty, which only becomes binding on countries when it is ratified by their governments, asks nations to roll back emissions -- carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and five other atmospheric gases -- to pre-1990 levels.



A L S O :

Global warming accord: 'tough' or a 'farce'?


The reductions would require U.S. businesses and consumers to use substantially less energy, and would redirect the country's energy policies to encourage a shift away from burning coal and oil, which have high carbon content.

Congressional critics of the Kyoto Protocol argue it would lead to soaring energy costs that will force businesses to move to developing countries that are not -- for the time being -- bound by the same emissions ceilings.

New emission targets set

Reactions to Thursday's agreement

Conference Chairman Raul Estrada

icon 281K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound


Antigua and Barbuda delegate John Ashe

icon 119K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound


Greenpeace delegate Bill Hare

icon 85K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound


Japanese delegate Toshiaki Tanabe

icon 111K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound


Swedish Environment Minister Anna Lind

icon 136K/11 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Under the proposal, 38 industrialized nations -- including the United States, Japan and the nations of the European Union -- agreed to accept binding targets for reducing their fuel emissions.

EU countries set emissions targets for the year 2008 at 8 percent below the level of emissions in 1990. For the United States and Japan, the cuts will be 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively. The other 21 countries will meet similar targets between 2008 and 2012.

Altogether, the 38 nations will be cutting greenhouse emissions to slightly more than 5 percent below 1990 levels.

"This is a figure that is going to have an impact on the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," conference chairman Raul Estrada said.

Clinton administration officials -- as well as most environmentalists -- maintain that the required emission reductions can be achieved by developing new energy-efficient technologies, and through renewed emphasis on conservation.

Over the next 12 years, numerous ways can be found to reduce carbon emissions without imposing energy taxes, they argue.

Industrialized, developing nations reach accord

Cars
The 11-day conference ended a historic effort to limit "greenhouse" gas emissions   

A U.S.-sponsored proposal that would have required "meaningful participation" by major developing nations was dropped after objections from China and other countries. They argued that such limits would harm ambitious industrialization plans needed to build their economies and pull their citizens out of poverty. In the end, they would only agree to voluntary limits.

Delegates did approve a proposal that would allow countries to "buy" pollution credits on an international market, allowing a country that was under its limit for greenhouse gas emissions to sell extra capacity to countries who had run out of room under their cap.

icon Nations react to global warming pact
For more background, see Our Changing Climate, a special report

China and India had objected to the pollution credit proposal, sponsored by the United States, saying it would allow industrialized countries to escape making required cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The new limits represent a compromise between positions staked out by the EU and the United States, since emission cuts are more than what the United States wanted but less than what the EU proposed.

President Clinton had announced before the conference that the United States would only be willing to agree to a 5 percent reduction and wanted to take longer to do it. But during a one-day trip to the conference Vice President Al Gore signaled to U.S. negotiators the need for deeper emissions reductions.

Gore said the agreement "lays a solid foundation for long-term efforts to protect our climate." Clinton called the accord "a huge first step" for dealing with what an overwhelming number of scientists believe is a threat to the Earth's climate because of warming caused by heat-trapping gases.

U.S. ratification likely will be tough

The exemption for developing countries is expected to make it difficult to win approval by the U.S. Congress.

The United States is the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, which are produced by burning fossil fuels. So if the United States opts out, the treaty's effectiveness would be undermined.

Congressional leaders have made it clear they will fight the treaty.

"The Senate will not ratify a flawed climate treaty," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott warned Thursday in a statement.

Without reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could double during the next century, warming the atmosphere and triggering an environmental chain reaction that could raise sea levels, change ocean currents and intensify damage from storms, droughts and the spread of tropical diseases.

Emissions of six gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and three halocarbons used as substitutes for ozone- damaging chlorofluorocarbons -- would be affected.

Correspondent Tom Mintier and Reuters contributed to this report.

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