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The world's nations will resume negotiations this week in Buenos Aires on unresolved aspects of the Kyoto climate change protocol, while debate continues on the economic and scientific effects of the treaty.
The U.S. will continue attempts at Buenos Aires to persuade developing countries, exempted by the Kyoto pact, to limit their emissions of gases, primarily carbon dioxide, that have been linked by some to a predicted catastrophic global warming.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has undercut estimates by the administration of President Bill Clinton of what the protocol will cost the U.S. economy.
The global oil and gas industry continues to grapple with what all this means. Few expect any significant breakthrough at Buenos Aires in efforts to hammer out a treaty acceptable to developed and nondeveloped nations alike.
However, any significant momentum that follows the Kyoto protocol could ultimately lead to dramatic changes in the landscape of the 21st century energy industry, especially in the outlook for fossil fuels.
The Kyoto treaty calls for the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 7% from 1990 levels by 2008-12. The agreement has yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate (OGJ, Dec. 22, 1997, p. 17).
Article 3 and Annex B of the protocol established binding emissions targets below 1990 levels for 38 developed nations and the European Union for 2008-12.
Japan agreed to a cut of 6% below 1990 levels, and the EU agreed to a cut of 8% (but grouping the EU nations, which allows for wide variations among member countries).
Several nations will be able to increase emissions (Australia 8% above 1990, and Norway 1%) while several others (Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand) must return only to 1990 levels.
Overall, the 38 developed countries must reduce their emissions about 5.2% from 1990 levels.
The pact covers six major greenhouse gases: [Co.sub.2], methane, nitrogen oxides, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. It sets 1990 as the baseline year for the first three and 1995 for the last three.
Article 3 allows the counting of net changes in sinks "resulting from direct human-induced land use change and forestry activities" since 1990, but details have not been determined.
The U.S. sought and won Article 17, which allows emissions trading between developed nations, and Article 6, which permits joint implementation of reduction programs.
Article 12 established a "clean development mechanism" (CDM), which gives developed countries a credit toward their targets through project-based emission reductions in developing countries. Details still must be negotiated.
President Clinton and Vice-President Albert Gore have said the administration won't submit the protocol to the Senate for ratification until there is "meaningful participation by key developing countries."
At least two of those nations, China and India, strongly oppose new commitments under the protocol.
The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress appears to oppose the treaty. In July 1997, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution 95-0 opposing the protocol if developing nations also did not reduce their emissions.
The Clinton administration has yet to outline a firm plan of how the U.S. would comply with its reductions, which could be up to 30% in a 10-15 year period.
Because the U.S. is the world's largest energy consumer, its participation is necessary for the protocol to be a practical success.
But to take effect, only 55 nations that collectively account for 55% of the 1990 [CO.sub.2] emissions of developed countries need to accept the protocol. It was opened for signatures Mar. 16 and closes Mar. 15, 1999.
Some of the U.S. opposition is based on the fear that the protocol would infringe upon U.S. sovereignty, because it requires international reporting and review of implementation. Those details are to be resolved when the protocol takes effect.
On Sept. 17-18. ministers from 22 industrialized and developing nations met in Tokyo to prepare for the Buenos Aires talks.
Jose Israel Vargas, Brazil's science and technology minister, told the meeting that the major industrialized countries will have to spend $100 billion! year to meet their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
He added that the amount was less than half of 1% of the countries' combined economic output.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat said, "In our meetings, the U.S. made it clear that developing countries must be part of the solution. Meaningful participation by key developing countries is central, with their degree of commitment dependent upon their emissions level and state of development."
That signaled that the U.S. had relaxed its demand that most developing countries commit to legally binding reductions.
Eizenstat said the U.S. expected developing countries with strong economies--such as South Korea, Mexico, and Israel--to accept legally binding emissions reductions targets, but not poor nations such as India or China.
He said that, if the poorer nations had sound environmental and economic policies and participated in the CDM, the U.S. would see that as a meaningful contribution.
The CDM would allow industrialized nations to fund pollution abatement schemes in developing countries and count the resulting drop in emissions towards their own Kyoto reductions targets.
That's important, because developing countries are expected to produce 50% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions sometime after 2015. The CDM would involve them in the global warming control effort without curbing their economic progress.
The EU urged the U.S. to sign the protocol regardless of acceptance by developing countries. EU Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard said, "We would like to see the U.S. sign the protocol as soon as possible."
She said industrialized countries should demonstrate their commitment to reduce greenhouse gases before expecting developing countries to do the same.
Bjerregaard said delegates at the Tokyo …