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U.S. stalls on establishing CO2 limits.

U.S. stalls on establishing, [CO.sub.2] limits

The United States resisted calls to make a specific commitment on the issue of global warming at an international meeting last week in Geneva, Switzerland, and now finds itself the only wealthy Western nation that has not agreed to stabilize its emissions of carbon dioxide by the turn of the century.

In the weeks leading up to the Second World Climte Conference, 18 Western European nations, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other countries announced their intention to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions. But in drafting the conference's final declaration, U.S. negotiators blocked attempts to insert specific timetables for industrialized nations to limit those emissions, the primary cause of global warming.

The action drew criticism from environmentalists and from many countries that had hoped the conference would generate a strong international statement before negotiations on a global climate treaty begin in February. Diplomats aim to have the treaty ready in time for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992.

During the Geneva meeting, which began Oct. 29, scientific experts from around the world gathered to discuss the state of knowledge regarding global warming. Their final declaration concludes that "notwithstanding scientific and economic uncertainties, nations should now take steps toward reducing sources and increasing sinks of greenhouse gases through national and regional actions."

However, according to John Knauss, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the lead U.S. delegate to the conference, the United States is not prepared to set specific targets on carbon dioxide emissions, although it is implementing programs that would slow the rising trend in emissions levels.

The U.S position contrasts with that of other Western industrialized nations, which have agreed to stabilize or reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Many of these countries maintain they can achieve reductions without substantial costs to society. Other industrialized nations have opposed adopting emissions limits. These include the Soviet Union, beleaguered by a failing economy, and China, with relatively low per capital emissions of carbon dioxide.

The debates at the meeting foreshadowed the problems facing those attempting to frame an international agreement in the next two years. "I realize the difficulty of the negotiating process, given the wide variety of views among the different countries of the world," says conference coordinator Howard Ferguson of the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organiztion, one of six international organizations sponsoring the 138-nation meeting.

Yet the conference and the deadlines recently set by some nations left many hopeful for the prospects of a treaty. "It's not going to happen overnight, but this international process has a lot of momentum right now," says Rafe Pomerance of the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.
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Title Annotation:carbon dioxide
Author:Monastersky, Richard
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 17, 1990
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