Kyoto Earth Summit Information Center:
Kyoto, Japan - It's only now beginning to dawn on participants at the Kyoto global warming summit, also known as COP-3, how complicated it's going to be to include developing nations in the proposed treaty. The reasons for this are as much legal as they are political and economic.
Under the Berlin Mandate of 1995 developing nations are explicitly exempted from making any new commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions during the current round of talks. All nations participating in the Kyoto negotiations are signatories to the Berlin Mandate.
This presents negotiators with a difficult legal challenge: Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) demanding, among other things, that developing countries (or the G-77 countries) be included in the greenhouse gas limitations proposed here.
From a legal standpoint, this would require revising or even doing away with the Berlin Mandate. This simply isn't going to happen and this means that there is no legal way to include the G-77 nations in the proposed Kyoto protocol that would satisfy the conditions set forth by the Senate.
If there is to be a document addressing the participation of developing nations in Kyoto, it will have to be a document separate from the proposed Kyoto protocol. Such a document would not, however, be legally binding.
Much of the behind-the-scenes talks undertaken by Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat and Council on Environmental Quality Chair Kathleen McGinty are believed to focus on getting the developing nations to make some kind of a "commitment" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at some point in the future. Even though it wouldn't be binding, it would at least create the illusion that Clinton Administration negotiators had been successful in brokering a deal the Senate could ratify.
The G-77 nations see this as a tremendous opportunity. They have proposed that a fund be established to assist them in developing alternative energy sources so that they can develop them in a cleaner way than the industrialized nations did in the past. The American delegation has already publicly stated that it is very interested in discussing how it can assist these nations in developing in a "sustainable way." The upshot of all this is that the developing nations, knowing how desperately the Clinton Administration wants them to commit to do something, have obtained considerable leverage over the US and other potential money sources.
Much of the behind-the-scenes negotiations between the U.S., the European Union, the World Bank and other potential sources of largesse is said to focus on creating an aid package sufficient to get the G-77 to make the kind of concessions necessary to give the treaty a fighting chance in the U.S. Senate.
There was also informed speculation that Vice President Albert Gore
will urge G-77 nations to be cooperative when he arrives here on Monday.
Conference participants are miffed by the timing of US's daily press briefings in Kyoto, which are scheduled for 7:00 PM each day. The reason? They are held during the very time that most of the receptions are held. Standing in the way of the cocktail hour -- not to mention free food -- is no way for U.S. negotiators to endear themselves to other delegates and certainly qualifies as diplomatic faux pas.
Those who have chosen martinis over the press briefings haven't missed much, however. The thirty minute briefings have been dominated by statements by second-tier diplomats containing no substance. Typically, there is time for only four or five questions from the audience. Perhaps the scheduling conflict was by design after all.
-EPA Watch Editor Dr. Bonner Cohen, on-site in Kyoto, provided the information for this report