U.S. Requests Further Delay in Climate Talks

WASHINGTON, DC, January 25, 2001 (ENS) - The United States has asked for a further delay before formal negotiations restart on the ground rules for implementing the United Nations Kyoto Protocol governing greenhouse gas emissions.

A session of talks was due to be held in May, following the collapse of the negotiations at the Sixth Conference of Parties to the UN climate change treaty in The Hague last November.

The Bush administration now wants these negotiations postponed until July.

Powell

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (Photo courtesy U.S. State Dept.)
The request was made earlier this month to Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk, who is chairing the UN negotiation process, said a spokesperson for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Its rationale was to allow time for the new Bush administration to review its global climate policy.

"These are important and very highly complex negotiations and therefore we think the [extra] time is useful. And during this period, we would be undertaking a thorough look at the U.S. policy on climate change," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher Wednesday.

Pronk has yet to issue a formal response, but a spokesperson for the minister was upbeat today. "The first reaction is positive in the sense that it's good that now the U.S. takes climate seriously," she said.

However, Pronk's spokesperson said any decision to reschedule the May talks would have to be taken jointly by all regional groupings participating in the UN's climate convention, to which the Kyoto protocol is attached.

The next meeting at which this could happen was scheduled for February 12, she said.

Pronk

Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Whether the likely delay will actually improve the chances of agreement between the two main blocs of industrialized countries - the European Union and the U.S. led Umbrella Group - remains unclear, since President George W. Bush has been widely portrayed as less likely than ex-president Clinton to sign up to strict climate controls.

European Union Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström yesterday declared herself "a bit worried" by his election, while stressing that the European Union should "judge him on his actions."

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 39 industrialized nations committed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012.

The protocol will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent of the nations emitting at least 55 percent of the six greenhouse gases. The United States is responsible for roughly 25 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted in the world.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}