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Global warming Friday, 6 November, 1998, 16:14 GMT
The battle for global solutions
Buenos Aires city centre
Buenos Aires is hosting delegates from 180 countries
Former UK environment minister John Gummer was heavily involved in preparations for the Kyoto climate conference of 1997 and is attending the global warming summit in Buenos Aires. In the first of two reports for BBC News Online, he writes here about what he hopes can be achieved:

The Kyoto Conference on Climate Change set targets for the countries of the developed world.

They may have disappointed many but they represent a real start in the battle to combat global warming.

Buenos Aires city centre
John Gummer: "The North will have to accept that global solutions demand a real measure of global justice"
Nonetheless, those targets were not accompanied by any clear route for their achievement.

Indeed the questions which remained over trading and the commitments of developing nations meant that there were many who doubt the reality of the targets themselves.

At Buenos Aires we need to dispel that concern.

We have to produce credible action plans which will show how the developed world is intending to reach its targets.

Ideally we would so frame those plans that the public would be able to see how their nations were doing.

Global warming
In the real world such transparency is extremely unlikely. Nonetheless it is worth trying to get as much as is politically possible. Otherwise there is the realistic fear that governments will claim they are on target until it is too late.

Then when they find that the calculations have been optimistic, there will not be time for adjustments to bring the nation back on track.

Regular monitoring is essential and transparency plays a vital part in making such monitoring possible.

'Most wasteful of nations'

To make the action plans work we shall have to make decisions about the mechanisms of trading.

Chimney stacks
The US produces 25% of the world's emissions
If we are not to have an inflexible system, trading is eminently desirable.

It does however have to be effectively controlled.

Trading cannot be a means of avoiding domestic action.

A country like the United States must not expect the world to accept that it can continue to produce 25% of the world's emissions while having only 4% of the world's population.

It would add insult to injury if that most wasteful of nations could discharge its international obligations entirely by purchasing the unused emissions of others with no reductions made at home.

Responsibility of the rich

Similarly, trading is not possible unless it is restricted to countries which take on real obligations and a fixed and measurable emissions target.

It is not possible to trade with those who have made no targets or trading will really be about hot air.

The willingness of developing nations to begin to move into the system is therefore crucial.

I do not ask that they should come in before we in the rich nations have accepted our primary responsibility.

In return for their partnership we in the North will also have to accept that global solutions demand a real measure of global justice.

That will be the real battle and in Buenos Aires it will have only just begun.

See also:

16 Oct 98 | Science/Nature
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