OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada -- Informal consultations
are scheduled to begin Wednesday in Ottawa in an attempt to revive the
stalled climate negotiations.
According to a report from Earth Negotiations Bulletin, senior officials
from key developed countries will resume discussions on the so-called
"crunch" issues, the outstanding areas that caused the breakdown of talks
at the 6th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change (COP-6), held two weeks ago in The Hague.
The talks are aimed at limiting the emission of six greenhouse gases,
particularly carbon dioxide, linked to global warming.
They will focus on carbon "sinks," limits to emissions trading, and the
The participating countries are: Australia, Belgium, Canada, the European
Commission, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, New
Zealand, Russia, Sweden, the U.K. and the United States.
The purpose of the meeting is to explore areas of common ground between the
European Union and the rest of the OECD countries, in preparation for a
ministerial level meeting tentatively scheduled for next week in Oslo.
The Clinton administration is reported to have requested the government of
Norway to host Ministerial Consultations in the week before Christmas.
Any agreement resulting from the consultations in Ottawa and Oslo would be
conditional on approval from all countries at the formal resumption of
COP-6 in May 2001. A key challenge will be to sell the deal to developing
countries, which will not be represented in Ottawa.
There is no doubt that the United States under President Bill Clinton is
willing to negotiate some fundamental limitation on the emissions of its
Still, chief U.S. climate negotiator, under secretary for global affairs
Frank Loy, keeps in mind that the United States began the process of
climate talks in 1992 in the Republican administration of President George
Bush, the current presidential hopeful's father.
In September, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Loy said, "Eight years ago the
United States, under the administration of President George Bush, joined
with more than 150 countries from around the world in forging an agreement
to begin to tackle a great challenge - the challenge of global climate
change. Five years later, in Kyoto, Japan, we took the next step in
addressing this challenge, by negotiating an historic agreement to limit
emissions of greenhouse gases."
Loy told the lawmakers, "There is indisputable evidence that the Earth is
"The American position was spurred by "the overwhelming weight of
scientific authority, which tells us that the build-up in greenhouse gases
in the atmosphere creates risks that are too serious to ignore," said Loy.
"Since Kyoto, this scientific consensus has only gotten stronger - both as
to the evidence that human induced climate change is occurring and as to
the dangers it presents," he warned.
Studies show that the 20th century has been the warmest century in the past
1,000 years and that the 1990s have been the warmest decade in that period,
while 1998 was the single warmest year on record.
Temperature profiles in boreholes, for example, now provide independent
verification of surface warming of 1 degree C over the last 500 years -
with 50 percent of this warming occurring since 1900.
New evidence shows that the top 300 meters of the ocean have also warmed
by about 1/3 of a degree C over the past 50 years.
New research reveals that arctic sea ice thickness has declined by about 40
percent over the past 20 to 40 years.
"These and other studies make scientists more confident than ever that
natural processes cannot explain the dramatic warming we have seen in the
20th century. Indeed, the data only makes sense if one includes the effects
of human induced warming," Loy said.
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