December 12, 2004
Summit Addresses Greenhouses Gases’ Impact
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- A new report on ecological damage from greenhouse gases dominated the sidelines of a U.N. conference on global warming Saturday as delegates from nearly 200 nations assembled to prepare for the launch next year of the Kyoto Protocol.
Kyoto, a landmark treaty designed to slow global warming, is to be implemented in February and commits major industrialized nations to curbing gases of factories, cars and coal-burning power plants blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere.
In an update Saturday, experts warned that Latin America was especially hard hit by the so-called "greenhouse effect," with emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for abrupt climate changes in a region that is home to more than 300 million people.
Although Latin America accounts for only about 4.3 percent of all global greenhouse gas output, a preliminary report prepared by environment officials from several countries highlighted signs of recent altered weather patterns, including increased flooding and droughts in Central and South America.
"The region is very vulnerable to extreme weather events," said Fernando Tudela Abad, an official in the Mexican government's environmental ministry.
The report, titled "Climate Change in Latin America: Challenges and Opportunities" cited energy production and transportation emissions as accounting for most of the region's output of greenhouse gases - which rank behind the United States, Europe and Asia but ahead of Africa.
Emissions from oil production were particularly high in small oil-producing islands in the Caribbean, including Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, along with Venezuela, one of the world's leading petroleum exporters.
Paraguay topped the list in transportation emissions, with nearly 90 percent of the country's emissions stemming from buses and cars.
Also, the top European Union negotiator urged participating nations to move quickly toward formal talks on new targets for cutting greenhouse gases after 2012.
The talks would serve as informal forums for discussions on possible future emissions cuts and other steps to be taken beyond the timetable of the Kyoto Protocol.
Some at the conference have expressed hope that the United States and large developing nations such as China and India might be more willing to curb emissions or take other steps to slow global warming beyond 2012.
But EU climate negotiating chief Yov de Boer said some developing countries expressed concerns about how emissions targets might affect economic growth.
"Developing countries are putting very legitimate demands on the table ... putting their own economic growth at the top of the agenda and making eradication of poverty an overriding concern," de Boer said.
But he said the push for future emissions cuts would accelerate Monday when the main session of government policy-makers opens here.
Conference delegates heard success stories Saturday about how industrialized nations are working with developing nations to provide them with cleaner energy sources in return for credits toward meeting their own greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The projects include efforts to clean up abandoned mines, remove harmful methane gas emissions from landfills and provide solar and wind-powered energy sources in place of contaminating fossil fuels.
With only a few months remaining before Kyoto takes effect, the science over global warming remains divided. The United States - the largest industrialized country not to join the treaty - has cited scientific uncertainties as one of the reasons.
Many scientists say carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases seriously threaten life on Earth by causing a gradual rise in the planet's temperature. Global warming has been blamed for more violent storms, rising sea levels and shrinking animal habitats.
Other experts disagree, saying Earth's temperatures have varied greatly over time, and little is known about how the atmosphere copes with temperature change.