Milestones in Climate Change Policy
Monday, December 3, 2007; 4:25 PM

The United Nations has kicked off a two-week conference on global climate change in Bali, Indonesia, in which delegates from more than 180 countries are expected to negotiate a replacement of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Speakers at the Bali conference, running Dec. 3 to 14, include California Gov. Schwarzenegger, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. President Bush is scheduled to meet Dec. 6 and 7 with representatives from the world's 16 "major emitters," including China and India, in Washington.

The United States remains the sole industrial nation not to ratify the 1997 Kyoto pact to reduce greenhouse emissions blamed for contributing to global warming. The Bush administration favors voluntary emissions cuts, while the U.N. and other countries are pushing for mandatory reductions.

A live webcast of the conference in Bali, Indonesia, can be found here.

The following is a timeline of major climate change conferences and reports.

1988: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is created by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to assess the scientific knowledge on global warming.

June 3-14, 1992: Representatives from 178 nations gather at the U.N. Conference on Environment in Rio de Janeiro. Two dozen industrialized nations agree to a global warming accord requiring them to submit reports in six months describing their policies for returning emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels. No deadline is given.

March 29-April 8, 1995: The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties meets for the first time in Berlin. Delegates from about 170 nations unanimously approve a plan, called the Berlin mandate, to set up a two-year negotiating process aiming to set specific targets for reducing greenhouse gases in the 21st century. The conference also accepts the principle of "joint implementation," a U.S.-backed concept under which industrial countries can offset their own emission reduction quotas by financing cuts in greenhouse gases in developing countries.

July 17, 1996: Timothy E. Wirth, U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs, outlines a proposal at the UNFCC conference in Geneva that would call for legally binding benchmarks among industrialized nations for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Dec. 11, 1997: The Kyoto Protocol is adopted at the third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan It requires developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions below levels specified for each within a five-year time frame between 2008 and 2012 and add up to a total cut in emissions of at least 5% against the levels in 1990. The United States, which did not sign the treaty, would be required to reduce them by 7 percent, the European Union by 8 percent, and Japan by 6 percent. Some nations would face smaller reductions, and a few would not face any immediately.

Nov. 13, 1998: Negotiators from more than 160 countries agree to set rules for enforcing the Kyoto Protocol by late 2000, including penalties for countries failing to comply.

Nov. 27, 2000: A two-week conference in The Hague closes without agreement on measures to fight global warming after the United States and the EU fail to settle a dispute over ways to tackle climate change.

Nov. 11, 2001: Negotiators representing more than 160 countries agree on a climate control treaty strengthening the Kyoto Protocol by setting mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and establishing an enforcement mechanism that would penalize countries failing to meet their emission reduction targets by 1.3 percent. It requires about 40 industrialized countries to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States, which disavowed the Kyoto treaty in March, is not a signatory.

Dec. 10, 2005: The industrialized nations party to the Kyoto protocol agree to engage in talks aimed at producing a new set of binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions that would take effect beginning in 2012 -- when the designated emissions cuts in the treaty are set to expire.

Feb. 2, 2007: A report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (pdf) declares that it is extremely likely that human activities are raising temperatures on Earth in a pattern that would be difficult to reverse.

April 6, 2007: A new IPCC report concludes with "high confidence" that human activities are responsible for the Earth's recent warming and subsequent changes to the ecosystem that are altering plant and animal behavior.

May 4, 2007: A new IPCC report says the world must significantly cut greenhouse gas, laying out a series of measures for doing so and outlining the economic impact of carbon reduction.

Sept. 24, 2007: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon addresses a U.N. conference on climate change, saying the international effort to stem global warming has not halted the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions and that governments must take "unprecedented action" to reverse the trend.

Oct. 12, 2007: Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. IPCC share the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and efforts to combat it.

Nov. 17, 2007: The UN IPCC releases its final assessment paper (pdf) in Valencia, Spain. The Synthesis Report finds that the world will have to end its growth of carbon emissions within seven years and become mostly free of carbon-emitting technologies in about four decades to avoid widespread extinctions of species, slowing of global currents, decreased food production, loss of 30 percent of global wetlands, flooding for millions of people and higher deaths from heat waves.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

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