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Published on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 by

Going Backwards

Rich Countries' Greenhouse Gas Emissions Ballooning

BONN, Germany - The emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from Europe, Japan, the United States and other industrialized countries could grow by 17 percent from 2000 to 2010, despite measures in place to curb them, according to a new United Nations report.

Greenhouse gases blanket the Earth, trapping the Sun's heat close to the planet's surface.

Based on projections provided by governments, the UN report will be discussed at a two-week meeting of the UN Climate Change Convention's 190 members beginning Wednesday in Bonn. It is intended to help governments plan their future climate change strategies.

"These findings clearly demonstrate that stronger and more creative policies will be needed for accelerating the spread of climate-friendly technologies and persuading businesses, local governments and citizens to cut their greenhouse gas emissions," said Joke Waller Hunter, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change Convention.

Emissions rose in all major economic sectors, including energy, transport, industry and agriculture. The exception was waste management, where emissions declined slightly. The figures do not include emissions and removals from land use change and forestry.

Governments adopted a more comprehensive set of policies and measures during 2000 and 2001 for addressing their emissions, such as emissions trading, carbon taxes and green certificate trading. The greatest number of policies and measures are being put to use in the energy sector.

The value of this report, an official UN document entitled 'Compilation and Synthesis of Third National Communications' has been improved by the growing quantity, quality and timeliness of the underlying national reports, called 'national communications,' the Climate Change Convention Secretariat says.

Thirty-one third national communications from developed countries have been submitted, along with 100 initial reports from developing countries.

The emissions of Central and Eastern European countries are starting to increase as their economies recover from early and mid-1990s lows, says the report, based on projections provided by these governments.

Developed countries saw their combined emissions fall during the 1990s, by three percent, due to a 37 percent decline in the emissions of Central and Eastern European countries.

But most of the reductions in developed countries was due to the steep economic decline in the countries of eastern Europe and the former USSR, resulting from the transition from centrally planned to market economies, the secretariat says. In recent years most of these countries have experienced appreciable economic growth, which is projected to lead to increased emissions in the future.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the highly industrialized countries as a whole rose by eight percent from 1990 to 2000. According to the report, the European Union's total emissions decreased by 3.5 percent from 1990 to 2000, with individual member states varying between a decrease of 19 percent and an increase of 35 percent.

Emissions increased in most other highly industrialized countries--five percent in New Zealand, 11 percent in Japan, 14 percent in the United States, 18 percent in Australia, and 20 percent in Canada.

With very few exceptions, the secretariat says, the reporting governments underlined the importance of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol in shaping their domestic climate policy responses. They said their emissions-reduction targets under the protocol are a first step towards long-term and continued emission reductions.

This international treaty under the UN Climate Change Convention requires 37 industrialized countries to reduce their emission of six greenhouse gases an average of 5.2 percent of 1990 emissions during the five year period 2008-2012.

The protocol broke new ground with three innovative mechanisms--joint implementation, the clean development mechanism (CDM) and emissions trading. These aim to maximize the cost-effectiveness of climate change mitigation by allowing parties to the protocol to pursue opportunities to cut emissions or enhance carbon sinks more cheaply abroad than at home.

The cost of curbing emissions varies considerably from region to region as a result of such differences as energy sources, energy efficiency and waste management. The parties may maximize the effectiveness of their funding for climate change mitigation by cutting emissions, or increasing removals, where it is cheapest to do so, given that the impact on the atmosphere is the same.

The Executive Board of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) met over the weekend, and for the first time considered methodologies needed for evaluating and monitoring CDM projects. If such methodologies are approved, the first CDM projects could be registered during the third quarter of 2003.

At a side event on poverty and climate change Waller-Hunter introduced a report entitled, 'Poverty and climate change: Reducing the vulnerability of the poor through adaptation.'

World Bank representative Kristalina Georgieva said the report offers adaptation measures that will assist developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change and reduce their vulnerability.

Although the United States will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol under President Bush, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman Friday announced that for the first time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will give consideration to management practices that store carbon dioxide and reduce greenhouse gases in implementing forest and agriculture conservation programs.

"Farmers, ranchers and forestland owners can play a unique role in reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy," Veneman said.

Generally, the UN report concludes, climate change has increased in importance in the national policy agendas of countries that are Parties to the Convention. Linkages were established in a number of national communications between climate change issues, such as energy and mobility, and sustainable development.

Copyright 2003 Environment News Service

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