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"At the Third Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, we must forge a strong agreement that is consistent with the Berlin Mandate and contains quantified and legally-binding emission targets that will result in reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by 2010".
France: Score: +1
The French commitment to environmental responsibility has strengthened considerably under the latest government. The French sent 30 delegates to Kyoto - more than any other major European country. In addition, the French Environmental Minister, Dominique Voynet, presented a National Action Plan against the greenhouse effect in November 1997 to the French National Government. Moreover, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has proposed tightening weight limits and introducing other regulations in the transport industry - a major emitter of greenhouse gases - to restrict driving during pollution alerts to citizens with "green stickers", and to impose stricter controls in new home construction in order to lower household energy consumption by 7% by 1999 over 1990 levels. Finally, France will benefit from the voluntary 25% cut in CO2 emissions to be pursued by new vehicle manufacturers in Europe. Although French analysts agree that CO2 emissions could be reduced 10% from 1990 levels by the year 2005, France's commitment within the overall 8% EU reduction framework is to maintain its national emissions at current levels. France's reliance on nuclear power for 80% of its energy needs is the major contributing factor for its CO2 per capita emissions of 1.8 tonnes. Yet, out of "Civic Responsibility", a supplementary 5% cut has been proposed, although this has not been decreed officially.
United States: Score: 0
At the Kyoto Summit, the US promised to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 7% by 2008-2012. However, the US has not signed the protocol and has given itself until March 1999 to do so. It will not assume any binding obligations under the agreement reached in Kyoto until "key developing countries meaningfully participate in meeting the challenge of climate change". The administration promises to apply diplomatic pressure to induce developing countries to participate in the framework, and will use regional forum and the G8 Summit in Birmingham to achieve this end. In his State of the Union Address, President Clinton promised $6.3 billion in the next budget to cut US greenhouse emissions, specifically devoting money to tax credits for energy-efficient purchases and renewable energy, as well as increased research and development. Given that the president's actions are restricted without congressional approval, it remains uncertain whether Clinton's proposal will be passed.
United Kingdom: Score: +1
The Blair government continues to place the environment at the heart of its foreign policy, with climate change being a primary focus. At a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in June, 1997, the Prime Minister committed the United Kingdom to the international effort to protect the environment, setting a concrete target of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010, a 5% improvement on their European Union counterparts. Here, Britain's ambitious goal will balance off other nations' lower commitments and achievements.
As the current holder of the E.U. Presidency, the U.K. has committed to leading discussion amongst E.U. members at the Environment Council meetings and has made the environment one of its Presidential priorities. The E.U. member countries have collectively committed to a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010, however, this does not mean that each member country must meet the 15% reduction commitment, only that the E.U. as a whole must meet the target. The U.K. is setting a strong leadership example by agreeing to a 20% reduction.
The U.K. encourages its local authorities to develop strategies that are globally focused, but that can also be effectively implemented in a local sense. Examples of how the U.K. plans to meet its 20% reduction commitment are through the introduction of energy efficiencies in homes, factories and electrical generation and encouraging environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Look for the U.K. to encourage other governments to improve their environmental records and set an example to follow good environment practice, especially in climate change.
Germany: Score: +1
The German commitment to environmental responsibility is strong, as demonstrated by the fact that environmental spending accounts for approximately 1.7% of Germany's GDP within 11 of its member states. The national strategy for combatting climate change, as outlined at Kyoto, is two-fold: 1) to reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles driven in the Western regions of Germany; 2) to reduce pollution produced by factories and power plants in the Eastern regions of Germany. In the latter case, disposing of obsolete technology and steering industry away from its overwhelming reliance on brown coal - the "dirtiest" from a CO2 perspective - will guarantee that the country will meet its 25% reduction commitment. However, recent strikes by coal miners in the West have delayed the Government's drive to reduce its subsidies to industry.
Despite the introduction of catalytic converters and other regulations, vehicle usage continues to rise in Germany's Western regions as economic growth proceeds. Germany further supports emissions trading and funding for reforestation efforts - making it financially attractive for developing countries to reduce CO2 emissions beyond any set commitments. As an example, Germany currently bears 60% of the cost of the international programme aimed at protecting the Brazilian rain forest, more than any other country in the world. As well, Germany is the leading donor country for international environmental aid, and strongly advocates the use of debt-for-nature swaps.
Japan: Score: +1
As host of the 3rd Annual Conference of the Parties (COP3) in Kyoto, Japan was expected to take the lead in calling for significant, quantifiable and legally-binding reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, their initial proposal to reduce national CO2 emissions by 2.5% was deemed unambitious, at best. But this modest reduction is rooted in Japan's perception that it has already attained relative energy efficiency. Japan, however left the Kyoto Summit with a commitment to reduce its CO2 emissions by a full 6% from 1990 levels, and the Government immediately set out to formulate an appropriate strategy for combatting climate change. On December 12, 1997, Prime Minister Hashimoto established a task force to deal with global warming (a team that he will lead) and directed cabinet members to work together on implementing measures. In addition, the Government also planned on revising current laws controlling factory emissions and noted that it would ensure low-interest loans to assist companies and local governments conserve energy. By the end of 1998, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry will assist consumers in choosing energy-efficient electrical appliances by providing "environmental" ratings. Furthermore, Japan will also seek to assist developing countries in reducing their C02 emissions through: 1) increased ODA loans (made available at lower costs with 40-year repayment periods); 2) by promoting cooperation in various environmentally-related fields; and 3) by investing in mechanisms which support environmental technology transfer.
Italy: Score: -1
Despite an E.U.-wide target of a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010, the Italians have only agreed to a 7% reduction in emissions. It is safe to say that the environment in general is not a priority for the Italians. However, at the recent Kyoto Conference on Climate Change, Italy noted that it welcomed the successful conclusion of Kyoto. The Government also noted Italy's pivotal role in the negotiation contributed to the adoption of the protocol. Although the Italians have promised to reduce emissions by 7%, the lack of concrete initiatives on emissions reductions have resulted in a score of -1 for the Italian Government.
Canada: Score: 0
At Kyoto, Canada promised a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its 1990 levels by 2010. Although Ottawa has not yet signed the protocol, it has promised to spend $150 million over three years to develop a national strategy, with a proposed deadline established for December 1999. However, the recent federal budget did not include any major tax incentives or credits to encourage investments in less polluting technology to cut greenhouse gases. To date, the government has relied on the voluntary pollution diminution from the private sector, which has not been effective in combating greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, the federal government requires provincial agreement in order to implement any significant measures on the environment. A draft plan has been sent to the provinces for further discussion at the Federal-Provincial Environment and Energy ministers' meeting in Toronto in late April. At this point, the province of Alberta is demanding that the federal government renegotiate for lower targets.
Russia: Score: +1
Russia is one of nine countries in three regions to be the focus of a USAID climate change initiative that aims to collaborate with developing countries to achieve the goals set by the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. Through the promise of technological cooperation, private sector partnerships, training and capacity building and trade and investment initiatives, it is hoped that Russia's willingness to protect the environment from the threat of climate change will be improved.
In 1995, Russia was second only to the United States in CO2 emissions, today the picture has changed dramatically. Russia has improved on its emissions levels, although not through environmentally friendly initiatives and commitments. Russia is meeting its targets simply because its industrial base is not at full production. We can expect that once the Russian economy picks up and the domestic situation stabilizes that their emissions targets will escalate.
One encouraging note on Russia's willingness to protect the environment are their recent commitments in a bilateral meeting with Japan where the two countries announced a plan to jointly cut greenhouse gas emissions in Russian plants. This agreement represents the first time that any two countries had committed to joint implementation efforts to meet the targets set at Kyoto in December, 1997. This bilateral agreement points to Russia's effort towards compliance with Kyoto and hopefully marks a positive turn in their prioritization of the environment.
Reports produced by Rob Bacinski, Alison Smith, Wendy
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