Global warming pact approved
Delegates reach agreement on how to control
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"
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
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Antigua and Barbuda delegate John Ashe
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Greenpeace delegate Bill Hare
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Japanese delegate Toshiaki Tanabe
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Swedish Environment Minister Anna Lind
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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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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.