(en) Europeans challenged US on greenhouse gases

Lyn and Shawn (linjin@tao.ca)
Tue, 1 Jul 1997 01:10:11 pst

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Tue, 1 Jul 1997 00:42:32 -0700 (PDT) From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org> Subject: Europeans challenged US on greenhouse gases

=============== - European leaders, taking a ``green'' stand at the start of a U.N. Earth Summit, challenged a reluctant Washington today to accept firm targets for reducing carbon dioxide to combat global warming. ``We in Europe have put our cards on the table,'' British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared. ``It is time for the special pleading to stop and for others to follow suit.'' Blair, seconded by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other European government chiefs, urged summit participants to endorse the European Union's proposal to cut carbon dioxide and other ``greenhouse gases'' by 15 percent below 1990 levels, with a deadline of 2010. Governments are negotiating a new treaty to impose legally binding cutbacks in greenhouse gases. But so far the Clinton administration, under pressure from U.S. industry and a skeptical Congress, has balked at committing to any specific timetable of targets. The world, Kohl said, has an ``opportunity to take a major step forward'' at the New York conference, where leaders and envoys from 170 nations have gathered to review progress on the environment and Third World development since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. ``We are all in this together,'' Blair said. ``No country can opt out of global warming or fence in its own private climate.'' The Europeans pressed their case despite having failed this weekend, at the Denver summit of industrial nations, to win U.S. agreement on specific reduction targets for greenhouse gases. Earlier, Vice President Al Gore, welcoming delegates to the New York summit, declared that ``we must act'' to limit emissions of gases that trap the Earth's heat. But he offered no specifics. President Clinton will speak on Thursday, fourth day in the U.N. marathon of five-minute speeches. Many delegates hoped the United States, the world's No. 1 polluter, would take the lead in setting environmental goals here. But it was Germany's Kohl who promised an action plan for ``Earth Summit Plus 5.'' The German chancellor was joining with Brazil, South Africa and Singapore to draft a plan for adoption by the U.N. session ``to achieve concrete progress on key issues.'' The centerpiece was understood to be a proposal for a new World Environment Organization. Looking back over the five years since Rio, U.N. conference Chairman Razali Ismail said bluntly that progress has been ``paltry.'' ``We face a major recession. Not economic, but a recession of spirit,'' the Malaysian diplomat said. ``We continue to consume resources, pollute, spread and entrench poverty as though we are the last generation on Earth.'' Those coming from Denver can act as ``catalysts'' to break through negotiating logjams over the documents to be approved here, Razali, the U.N. General Assembly president, told a reporter. ``I hope the political leaders will come to the rescue,'' he said. In 1992 in Rio, governments endorsed the goal of ``sustainable development'' - developing the global economy to benefit all while protecting the environment. That summit was historic, but the steps it agreed on were mostly voluntary - in reducing such ``greenhouse gases'' as carbon dioxide, for example, to combat global warming, and in better preserving forests. The record since then is spurring calls for tougher, mandatory actions. Carbon emissions have actually increased - in the United States by more than 13 percent. Fresh water is increasingly scarce. Forest is being lost at a rate of one Iowa - 55,000 square miles - per year. On the development side, the number of people living on less than $1 a day has edged above 1.1 billion. In closed-door, pre-summit talks, diplomats debated what conclusion to reach in the political statement that will end the summit: Is the environmental outlook ``worse'' than five years ago, or ``not much better''? Such duels over language were the easy part. The harder negotiations were expected to drag on through the week over global warming and other more concrete issues. Governments agreed two years ago to produce by late 1997 a new treaty on global warming requiring industrial nations to cut back greenhouse gas emissions. A U.S. Senate majority says it will block any treaty that does not also mandate reductions by China and other developing countries. The Clinton administration is searching for a middle ground. Meanwhile, the rhetoric is sharpening. ``We would like to see countries that are benefiting from putting garbage into the air to do something about it,'' said Laurence N. Edwards, U.N. ambassador of the low-lying Pacific nation of Marshall Islands, which might be inundated by rising sea levels predicted in the next century with global warming. Edwards and others hope Clinton will take a firmer stand in his summit speech Thursday. But U.S. officials, speaking privately, say the stalemate will continue, at least until treaty negotiations resume in midsummer.

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