U.S. Agrees to More Talks on Global Warming

After two weeks of negotiations in Montreal, delegates to an international climate conference agree to keep talking. The U.S. has agreed to nonbinding talks on global warming.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Delegates to an international climate meeting in Montreal salvaged two weeks of negotiations by agreeing today to keep talking about ways to curb global warming. The meeting was the biggest since the Kyoto Treaty to fight global warming was signed in 1997. That treaty sets limits on so-called greenhouse gases that expires in 2012 and won't do much to stop the warming trend in the atmosphere. NPR's Christopher Joyce is just back from the Montreal meeting an joins us now.

Hello, Chris.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE reporting:

Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: How much was finally accomplished at this meeting?

JOYCE: The US and China and other developing countries that emit a lot of carbon dioxide aren't really party to the Kyoto protocol in the sense that they don't have to limit their emissions. So all they really wanted to do was to agree to start talking about what to do after 2012, and for the first week and a half of the meeting, they weren't even able to agree on anything on that front. And finally at the 11th hour, the impasse was broken and they did decide at least to talk about how they would go beyond 2012.

ELLIOTT: There's been a lot of talk about US opposition to this treaty. What role did the US government play?

JOYCE: It's an observer status. The US did not sign the Kyoto Treaty. So they sent a delegation to talk about other issues and to talk about businesses that could participate in the US approach which is one of a voluntary effort to cut global warming gases. They did act of something of a spoiler some of the time. There was a great effort to try to bring the United States into the process even informally which was rejected by the US delegation time after time. Even at one point, the head of the US delegation, Harlan Watson, walked out of a meeting, eventually returned and did double back a little bit and said finally that the US would participate in some informal discussions in the future about how to find opportunities to curb warming. They wouldn't use the word `mechanisms,' but it's a little better than many of the delegates had anticipated.

ELLIOTT: Why is it that the US government is so reluctant to participate in negotiations about global warming?

JOYCE: The Bush administration has said for a long time and consistently that mandatory cuts that are required under the Kyoto Treaty in greenhouse gases would be a straitjacket for the economy. They prefer voluntary efforts.

ELLIOTT: I understand that former President Bill Clinton showed up at this meeting. What was he there to say?

JOYCE: He wanted to come in and have words with both sides of the argument for the European Union and the Kyoto countries. He said that perhaps formal mandatory cuts was not the only way to go, and for the US delegation, he chastised the Bush administration, saying they shouldn't be so recalcitrant, that there's a middle ground here and they should collaborate.

ELLIOTT: NPR science correspondent Chris Joyce, thank you.

JOYCE: My pleasure.

ELLIOTT: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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