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No treaty in sight at climate negotiations.

Negotiators have now consumed half the 16 months allotted for drafting an international treaty addressing global warming. But with a June 1992 deadline looming ever closer, they still have little to show for their work.

During the most recent round of talks in Nairobi last month, delegates from around the world had hoped to hammer out a basic negotiating text to take home for examination before the next session in Geneva in December. But after two weeks, delegates left the Kenyan capital without the expected document, raising concern that they will not have a strong treaty ready for signing at a major United Nations conference in Brazil next year.

During the Nairobi discussions, the United States remained firm in its opposition to setting specific targets and timetables for limiting emissions of carbon dioxide--a position that sets it apart from almost all other industrialized countries.

The world's richest nations, excepting the United States, now present a more unified front than earlier this year, says Scott A. Hajost, international counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Defense Fund, who observed the meeting. "In appearances, you've got Japan lining up more with the Europeans," he says. In general, these countries call upon the developed nations to stabilize their emissions of carbon dioxide at 1990 levels by the turn of the century.

At a briefing last week, the U.S. chief negotiator at Nairobi, Robert Reinstein, downplayed the differences between the United States and other industrialized nations, spotlighting instead the split between the globe's north and south. At Nairobi, developing countries expressed growing insistence that the treaty guarantee substantial financial and technical assistance to help the less developed nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Cornelia Quennet, the principal negotiator for Germany, says developing and developed countries have quite different ideas on financial support the poorer nations should receive. "The amount of money they imagine [receiving] is just not feasible," she told SCIENCE NEWS. However, she notes that a prior treaty, designed to protect the ozone layer, resolved similar assistance issues.

The September meeting was the third out of five scheduled negotiating rounds, which started in Washington in February (SN: 3/30/91, p.200). Procedural matters took up the initial session and part of the second, so the Nairobi talks offered the first forum wholly devoted to negotiations.

Although the United States did not waver in its opposition to strict commitments, it explained this stance more fully than previously. Reinstein stated that economic analyses indicate the United States would need to spend more than other nations to reach emissions targets, given its dependence on domestic coal.

However, a report from the National Academy of Sciences, released in April, concludes "the United States could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 10 and 40 percent of the 1990 levels at a very low cost." A major portion of these cheap actions would specifically reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
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Title Annotation:global warming
Author:Monastersky, Richard
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 5, 1991
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