John Carlisle, Correspondent
U.S. demands that developing nations commit to some sort of greenhouse gas emissions limits may have precipitated a walk-out of the G-77, the bloc of developing nations taking part in the negotiations, according to as yet unconfirmed reports.
The reports seem credible, given that U.S. negotiators have been at serious loggerheads with the developing nations over this issue throughout the Buenos Aires meeting. The conflict stems from U.S. Senate passage of the Byrd-Hagel resolution last year, which stipulated, among other things, that the Senate would reject any global warming treaty that did not include emissions reduction commitments from all nations, including developing nations. Led by China and Indonesia, these nations adamantly oppose any such limits.
Another sign that the reports could be credible is the fact that European Union (EU) spokemen failed to show up for their daily press conference. The fact that they did so without informing EU staff may indicate something is up.
The American delegation, led by Stuart Eizenstat (Undersecretary of State) and Todd Stern, the President's Climate Change Coordinator, did hold their press conference on time at 7:00 PM. What was significant about the press conference was that they said very little. Eizenstat kicked off the conference praising Argentina for providing a good example of meaningful participation. President Menem, earlier in the day, had given a speech on how his country had managed to grow economically without excessively increasing its CO2 emissions.
Eisenstat also praised Kazakhstan for announcing that it will join the developed countries (Annex 1) in committing to reduce its CO2 emissions.
One reporter asked if it was true that Kazakhstan's CO2 emissions had already dropped due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Eizenstat claimed this wasn't so without offering any specific facts.
When asked if Vice President Gore was coming, Todd Stern emphatically said "no." He didn't offer any reasons. That could be another indication of a collapse in the talks. Gore would not want to travel to Buenos Aires if the conference was going to be a failure.
There is still no word if President Clinton is going to sign the treaty.
In other news, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) circulated a press release, signed by CEI, The National Center for Public Policy Research and other groups, criticizing Population Action International for its support of population control as a means of reducing global warming, saying, "After CO2, even childbirths may become a target of the climate treaty, especially in poorer countries. Global Green pressure groups attending the U.N. climate talks believe that the underdeveloped world is having too many children. Poorer countries must limit their population in order to save the climate."
Population Action International had argued that "nations should pay more attention to the world's explosive birth rate, particularly in poor nations, during climate talks to figure out how to curb global warming..." (Reuters, 11/11). Robert Engelman, a director of Population Action International, said the current population of 5.9 billion could double by 2040 if current birth rates of 225,000 a day continue, making it more difficult to curb smokestack and tailpipe emissions. He said the regions experiencing the greatest birth rates are Sub-Saharan Africa (2.5%), South Asia and the Middle East (2%), and Latin America (1.5%).
An exit poll conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide during the recent U.S. elections found that 60% of voters oppose implementation of the Kyoto Protocol global warming treaty due to the high costs it would impose on the U.S. economy.
The average environmentalist attending the Buenos Aires global warming conference will burn over 188 gallons of jet fuel to attend the conference. He or she will nonetheless lecture everyone else on the need to reduce fuel consumption throughout the conference.