Climate Change Too Serious to Ignore, Talks Resume

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - Informal consultations are scheduled to begin Wednesday in Ottawa in an attempt to revive the stalled climate negotiations.


Head of the Canadian climate negotiating team, Lloyd Axeworthy at COP-6. (Photos courtesy IISD/Leila Mead)
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 compliance regime.

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.


German Minister of the Environment, Green Party leader, Juergen Trittin makes his point at COP-6.
There is no doubt that the United States under President Bill Clinton is willing to negotiate some fundamental limitation on the emissions of its greenhouse gases.

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 warming."


U.S. chief climate negotiator, Frank Loy, outlines the U.S. stance at COP-6.
"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.


Climate talks collapse in frustration at the Hague, November 25.
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.