NEW DELHI - Negotiators at the United Nations conference on climate change emerged from last minute discussions today with consensus on a final resolution, but there is concern that the heated debate of the past 10 days has resulted in little progress.
The flurry of debate over the final declaration illustrates the deep divisions between developed and developing countries, a gulf some believe the United States has helped to widen at the conference in New Delhi.
"Once again, the nations of the world have failed to take the steps needed to stop climate catastrophe," said Friends of the Earth International climate campaigner Kate Hampton. "But it could have been worse, given the efforts of the fossil fuel lobby in the Saudi Arabian and U.S. delegations to kill Kyoto."
Environmentalists charge that the United States deliberately polarized the debate between developed and developing countries and spearheaded an effort to undermine progress in New Delhi. The United States refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol or commit to a formal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, despite being responsible for 25 percent of the global total.
"The Bush administration, working closely with Saudi Arabia, has taken a number of steps at this meeting to obstruct the process," said Jennifer Morgan, director of WWF's climate change program. "They [worked] on a number of fronts to unnecessarily exacerbate tensions between developed and developing countries, sidetrack the science and keep countries from moving ahead."
Some 5,000 attendees from 170 countries attended the Eighth Conference of Parties (COP8) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was intended to provide a framework for moving beyond the Kyoto Protocol. Supporters hope the Kyoto accord, which limits the emission of six greenhouse gases, will enter into force next year.
The conference, however, became a backdrop for heated debate over the varying roles developed and developing countries should play in addressing climate change and what commitments they are willing to accept.
The developing countries are concerned about the costs of mitigation measures such as emissions reductions and believe industrialized countries should shoulder most of the financial burden for climate change.
Although the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions are from industrialized countries, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told the conference, "developing countries will bear a disproportionate burden of the adverse impacts of climate change."
When it issued a draft declaration that did not even mention the Kyoto Protocol, India drew the ire of the European Union and other supporters of the protocol. India, China and many of the G-77 developing countries ultimately agreed to language in the declaration stating that parties that already have ratified the protocol encourage others to ratify it in a "timely manner."
But there is no mention in the declaration of how developing countries should approach emissions cutting, something the European Union supported, and no consensus on how to move beyond the protocol, if and when it is ratified.
"The text of the declaration significantly lacks action and vision for the future," said EU spokesperson Thomas Becker. The European Union was joined by Japan and Canada in expressing disappointment with the declaration.
American negotiators declared that the Delhi Declaration was "a balanced document for future course of action to deal with climate change."
Charges that the United States inhibited progress at the conference through its refusal to commit to the Kyoto Protocol were brushed off by U.S. government officials.
"The Kyoto Protocol is costly, ineffective and unfair," said the U.S. Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky. "It is also impractical and unrealistic. Climate change is a global phenomenon but the developing countries are not participating."
Indian Environment Minister and COP8 president T.R. Baalu, however, called the Delhi Declaration a "win-win" for all 186 members of the United Nations and a "major victory" for developing countries.
The Delhi Declaration highlights the need for aid to help developing countries adapt to climate change and recognizes that Africa currently is suffering the most.
refrigerants that are responsible for climate change as well as ozone
The declaration agrees to move forward on curbing the emission of depletion.
One of the conference's accomplishments was making the protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) fully operational. The CDM will channel private sector investment into emissions reduction projects in developing countries, offering industrialized governments credits against their Kyoto targets while promoting sustainable development.
The first CDM projects are now likely to be approved during the first quarter of 2003.
The conference also concluded three years of work on the procedures for reporting and reviewing emissions data from developed countries. This unprecedented international system is intended to ensure that national data on greenhouse gas emissions are comparable and credible. This system is viewed as vital for safeguarding the integrity of the Kyoto agreement and promoting compliance with its emissions targets.
Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which many believed was imminent at the onset of the conference, looked less certain at the end of COP8. Canada and Russia had both indicated that they would ratify the treaty by year's end, providing the measure of support needed for it to enter effect. Both countries have been hit by debate over the economic effects of the accord, and Russian officials now say it could take at least a year for its government to decide on ratification.
The 9th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP9) will be held in Italy in December 2003.
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