Staff writer The United States is determined to realize a workable international agreement to fight global warming, but serious sticking points remain before Washington can ratify the Kyoto Protocol, U.S. Climate Change negotiator Mark Hambley said on Wednesday. Hambley, who has headed climate change delegations since 1995, is in Tokyo for four days of Umbrella Group meetings to see if group members — nine developed countries that do not belong to the European Union — can forge a common stance on issues before COP6, the Sixth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in The Hague in November. For the first time, sinks — carbon absorbing areas such as forests — will be formally discussed at the longer-than-usual Umbrella Group gathering, Hambley said. Both the length of this Umbrella Group meeting, which runs until Thursday, as well as plans to meet three times this year instead of the traditional two, reflect the need to pick up the pace before COP6, he added. Under the protocol approved at COP3 in Kyoto in 1997, industrialized countries agreed to legally binding emission reduction targets for carbon dioxide and five other types of greenhouse gases. The total volume of their greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. But the “meaningful participation” of developing countries, manageable climate change program costs, limitless carbon trading and a strict compliance mechanism are key issues if the U.S. is to ratify the protocol, Hambley said. “We do not want to damage the U.S. economy,” he added, explaining that cost considerations will be very important. The U.S. feels there should be no ceiling on carbon emissions trading — a scheme that allows countries to buy, gain or trade carbon emission rights to offset reduction costs, Hambley said. A ceiling, as advocated by other developed countries, would “introduce artificial costs,” Hambley said. The U.S. is also intent on creating a strict compliance system. Without one, the integrity of the protocol is at risk, he maintained. “We want a system that would penalize countries if they do not meet their (reduction) targets.” Exactly what “meaningful participation” by developing countries will entail, Hambley said, will vary by country, but some would be expected to commit to reductions soon. Asked about the possibility that other countries might push ahead independent of the U.S. if it drags its feet, Hambley said that would be a mistake. “For countries to go alone on this I think would be an error,” he said. “We view the Kyoto Protocol as the first of several steps to address global warming. It is a global problem that requires a global solution.” The U.S. is not sitting on its laurels, he added. More than two-thirds of the 50 states have complete emission inventories and half of them are working on action plans to cut emissions, he said. “We are not waiting for it (the climate change convention) to be ratified before taking action.” “For the U.S. this is an exciting period,” he added. “I am confident that the international community is moving in a common direction and we will have a positive outcome.”
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