ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Climate of Concern


The importance of the summit on global climate change that begins early next week at the Hague lies in the fact that it represents a first major step towards actually acting on the understanding that has emerged on global warming over the last five years. However with all the differences among nations on major issues far from being ironed out, it is likely to be a series of long sleepless nights for the negotiators. But whether the document that emerges from these negotiations will actually contribute towards stabilising the climate or will remain bogged down in evolving market mechanisms and arithmetical games is a moot question. The Hague summit is a follow-up of the 1997 meeting in Japan which hammered out the Kyoto Protocol on combating global warming. While preparatory meetings have been held to smoothen the course of this summit, at Hague essentially the rules for achieving the targets set in 1997 are to be worked out. For instance, realistic targets were set at Kyoto for different countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: the US is required by the accord to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 7 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012; European Union countries by 8 per cent; Russia by 0 per cent; Canada and Japan by 6 per cent. The accord allowed some countries to increase their emissions: Iceland by 10 per cent; Norway by 1 per cent; and Australia by 8 per cent. More than 130 countries are not required to meet any emission targets. Overall the landmark Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to about 5 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012.

Negotiators at Kyoto also agreed in principle to put in place ‘flexibility mechanisms’ by which the required cuts in emission may be achieved by ‘emissions trading’. It seemed sensible to some countries at that meeting to make the cuts where they are most cost efficient. The US is, not surprisingly, keen on the accord allowing the ‘trading’ of ‘credits’. It may for instance, then be able to purchase such credits from Russia without doing anything about its own emissions. Russia also supports the US plea – its zero target for reduction of emissions is essentially due to the closure of industry, and the downturn in the economy, which may be revived by the ‘selling’ of its pollution credits. Several estimates worked out since the Kyoto Protocol have claimed that the cost of reducing such emissions in the US would be enormous: $100-$300 billion loss in US GDP every year and job losses would run to about one million and more. The Clinton-Gore administration, accepting that such an international accord would never be ratified by the Congress, has attempted to put forward alternatives in the negotiations towards the drafting of regimes of compliance at the Hague.

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