by Ramesh Jaura

Bonn,20 Oct 99(IPS) -- Crucial talks begin here next
week to hammer out a world-wide consensus on reducing the output
of 'greenhouse' gases, generally agreed to be the cause of global

About 5,000 government officials, representatives of the
international business community and non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) will attend the 10-day meeting of the Fifth
Session of the Conference of Parties (COP-5), which starts Oct.

Delegates face the sombre backdrop of continuously increasing
temperatures across the globe and must agree in cutting emissions
of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, says Michael
Zammit-Cutajar, executive secretary of the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change.

In fact emissions from industrial countries are expected to
increase 18% above 1990 levels by year 2010, unless effective
action is taken, Zammit-Cutajar says.

An agreed plan for taking such action is set out in the 1997
Kyoto Protocol that emerged after intensive discussions from a
previous COP gathering.

Once it comes into force and becomes legally binding, the
protocol will commit the so-called "annex one" developed countries
to individual emissions targets for the period 2008-2012.

The desired result would be a reduction of more than 5% in the
emissions of heat-trapping gases from developed countries,
compared to 1990 levels.

By arresting and reversing the upward trend in greenhouse gas
emissions that started in these countries 150 years ago, the
protocol promises to move the international community one step
closer to achieving the objective of the Convention emerging from
the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.

In the Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries commit themselves
to reducing their collective emissions of six key greenhouse
gases by at least 5 percent.

This group target will be achieved through cuts of 8 percent by
Switzerland, most Central and East European states, and the
European Union (EU) which intends meeting its target by
distributing different rates among its members.

The protocol also commits the United States to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions by 7 percent and Canada by 6 percent.

Russia, New Zealand, and Ukraine must stabilise their emissions,
while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1 percent, Australia
by up to 8 percent, and Iceland 10 percent.

However, the protocol will only enter into force and become
legally binding when it has been ratified by at least 55
countries- including developed countries that account for at
least 55 percent of emissions from industrial nations.

To date, only 15 countries - all from the developing world - have
ratified the protocol. The list does not include China and India,
which have large emissions although still below those of the
industrial states.

Developed countries in general and the United States in
particular, until now, have been reluctant to ratify the Kyoto

They continue to argue over the economic implications of a rapid
transition to a lower-emissions economy - including the potential
impact on trade competitiveness, both among themselves and vis-a-
vis those developing countries now in the process of

Against this backdrop, the Bonn conference must define the rules
by which developed countries can lower the costs of meeting their
targets by reducing emissions in other countries through the so-
called flexibility mechanisms, Zammit-Cutajar says. A related
issue will be determining the consequences for a country of
failing to comply with the protocol targets.

"The talks may also open the way for key developing countries to
become more involved in addressing climate change in the future,"
says Zammit-Cutajar, in a reference to China and India whose
coming on board has been made a pre-condition by the US Senate
for ratifying the protocol.

All negotiations are scheduled to be completed at COP-6, due to
take place at the Hague, in Nov 2000 - the same month as US
presidential elections.

Because of this clash of dates, the Hague meeting may be
postponed until the Spring of 2001, according to some observers.

But whatever date, the "crunch" will come at the Hague, said the
UNFCCC executive secretary, adding: "The final results will have
to satisfy the major industrial countries, trigger their
ratification of the protocol, and offer incentives to developing
countries to take further action in the future."

Zammit-Cutajar said the Bonn meeting must build confidence in a
successful outcome at The Hague by adopting important technical
decisions, sending positive signals to business and industry, and
engaging Ministers fully in the task of focusing and speeding up
the negotiations."

The above article by the Inter Press Service appeared
in the South- North Development Monitor (SUNS) .