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Global Climate Change: Adequacy of Commitments under the U.N. Framework Convention and the Berlin Mandate

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Publication Date: October 1996

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: 96-699

Topic: Environment (Weather and climate)

Abstract:

The second session of the Conference of Parties (COP-2) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) convened July 8-19, 1996, in Geneva, Switzerland. On July 18, 1996, the Ministers and other heads of delegations present at COP-2 crafted and released a Ministerial Declaration, also called The Geneva Declaration. It was based on a U.S. policy statement delivered July 17th at COP-2 which: 1) recognized and endorsed the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) as currently the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, 2) called for parties to set ''legally binding, medium-term targets'' for limitations and significant overall reductions of their emissions of greenhouse gases, and 3) rejected commitments for developed country parties regarding ''common or harmonized'' policies and measures in favor of flexibility in applying policies and measures to achieve emissions limitations and reductions. The Chairman of COP-2 called for FCCC parties to ''take note'' of the Ministerial Declaration, and to agree as a body to consider a ''future decision [containing these elements] which would be legally binding on all parties under the FCCC.''

Some in the U.S. Congress have voiced concerns about the principles of common but differentiated commitments and responsibilities, as well as respective capabilities, under FCCC for developed versus developing countries. Specifically, questions have been raised about whether continued adherence to these principles in any protocol or other legal instrument negotiated for the post-2000 period could disadvantage the United States economically and competitively in world markets. Among some Members and the committees of relevant jurisdiction in the House and Senate, a need has been expressed to be better informed about what exactly the United States potentially may be agreeing to during the current Analysis and Assessment Phase called for in the Framework Convention's 1995 Berlin Mandate, as well as what the economic impact would be of future decisions the United States might make vis a vis other FCCC parties in future climate protection negotiations.