COP6—The Hague Climate Conference

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  • by Anup Shah
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November 13 to November 24, 2000 saw the sixth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (or, COP6 for short!). Each COP meeting is where nations meet to evaluate the accords and compliance with meeting emissions reduction targets. This one was intended to wrap up three years of negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

On this page:

  1. COP6 Talks Collapse
  2. Mainstream Media on COP6
  3. More Information

COP6 Talks Collapse

The Hague conference collapsed due to the US wanting carbon sinks as part of the agreement (as well as other provisions like nuclear energy, etc.), which received enormous criticism. In addition, the Europeans were not swaying on their stance that the US should not be given exceptions and should not be allowed to meet much of its greenhouse gas reduction targets without actually cutting emissions. While Britain's John Prescott attempted to find some sort of middle ground, the EU were firm in their stance that the US should not get special treatment. It was this that was largely the cause of the collapse.

The United States, with about 4 percent of the world's population and emitting about 21 percent of the world's carbon dioxide, the role of the US in this process is key. With President Bush coming into power and declaring that he opposes the Kyoto Protocol makes progress on this less likely.

This has even caused some rifts between US and European climate and environment groups. For example, the D.C based National Environment Trust blames the EU for passing up a US position that was a "major progress" towards reducing global warming pollution, while European groups have been highly critical of the US position as attempting to weaken the outcomes and any tradeoffs could not be regarded as "major" progress.

However, as with Kyoto, at Hague, the developing countries were side-lined. Even the tradeoffs being considered above were largely without considering the G77, or the developing Southern countries.

The Umbrella Group, then consisting of the US, Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had huge differences with the European Union and developing countries on many issues. Most in the Umbrella Group had direct business and economic interests directing the types of issues being debated and the US obviously takes lead of the group. Fears that this could lead to either stalemate situations on many issues, or watered down agreements to tackle climate change issues has unfortunately come true. (For more about the US position and issues pertaining to the developing countries, refer to this site's section on the Kyoto protocol.)

As with previous COP meetings, this one continued to raise many critical political issues and criticisms regarding corporate and industry motives.

While some subsequent attempts at meetings between the EU and US had been attempted, the US turned some of them down. After a number of discussions, formal and informal, the new US president, George Bush announced that he was against the Kyoto Protocol.

The resumption of the talks in July 2001 at Bonn resulted in an agreement, which did include the developing countries a bit more. While the mainstream media of many nations hailed this as a magnificent step forward, and a saviour of the climate agreement negotiations, it left many tradeoffs and questions, such as how to enforce any compliance, allowing carbon sinks in to get Japan, Canada and Australia on board, and so on. This lead to what some describe as a very weakened agreed protocol which includes some "creative accounting".

Additionally, as the Guardian reports, that "the concessions mean the cuts in greenhouse gases by 37 of the world's richest and most developed countries will be a marginal 1%-3%, compared with the 60%-80% scientists are demanding to make the climate safe". Yet, they say that it is a "vital start" as the "framework of the agreement allows new targets for periods beyond 2010, leaving scope for further deep cuts in the future." As long as there isn't further complacency and political issues are met, and the pressure to tackle climate change is sustained, then perhaps further cuts in the future are possible.

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Mainstream Media on COP6

In some ways it is not surprising, while in other ways it is profoundly absurd at how there has been "extremely sparse" media coverage in the United States mainstream. It is not surprising in the sense that the mainstream media is corporate owned, and shares similar views to the business lobby groups that have been hostile to the climate change negotiations. It is profoundly absurd in the sense that how once again the media of the most powerful nation in the world does not present much information to its population. (For more about the US media, visit this web site's section on the US mainstream media.)

In many countries around the world, Europe especially, the COP6 climate change conference has been one of the main news stories.

The subsequent collapse of the talks has been largely blamed on US business interests. The following quote, from the Guardian, a mainstream British paper, albeit very damning of the US, is by no means out of the ordinary:

"The US, with 4 per cent of the world population, is responsible for 24 per cent of all carbon emissions. And while the dirtiest nation swaggers around the globe policing how the rest of the world trades and organises its finances, it apparently believes it should come under no scrutiny at all for running its own industry with fuel-inefficient, environmentally damaging technologies long abandoned by Europe. -- Dirty Uncle Sam wrecks deal on global warming, The Guardian, November 26, 2000

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More Information

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  • by Anup Shah
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