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World: Business Group Cautions Against Greenhouse Pact

Washington, 24 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - A group representing U.S. businesses is accusing the Clinton administration of rushing too quickly to sign an international agreement limiting the emissions of gases which are believed to be contributing to a greenhouse effect on Earth.

The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) says the United States appears ready to agree to strict limitations on the emissions without knowing its ramifications. At a news conference in Washington Thursday, John Shlaes, the exective director of the GCC, said such limitations could result in significant job losses as well as much higher energy costs in the United States.

He called on the Clinton administration to fully explain the costs to the American people before signing an agreement.

On Tuesday the United States released its draft proposal for an international treaty to limit emissions which contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming. The complex proposal would require developed countries to set a budget for emissions. The countries would be required to reduce those emissions over a period of years, according to specific targets and timetables.

Under the U.S. proposal, countries which reduce emissions faster than required could trade their credits with countries that lag behind.

The United States wants the United Nations to monitor the emissions in all member countries. The U.N. would have the power to penalize countries who do not abide by the treaty requirements.

More than 160 countries are now parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. From that convention, member countries agreed to begin negotiations on a new, legally-enforcable, treaty to deal with the threat of climate change in the post 2000 period. The new treaty is scheduled to be adopted at the convention's third meeting, which will be held in December in Kyoto, Japan.

The convention's subcommittee is now in the process of drafting the legal text of that treaty. It hopes more than 150 countries will agree to abide by the treaty. The subcommittee will next meet in Bonn, in March. After that, two more meetings are scheduled to finalize the text.

The U.S. submission represents the latest U.S. contribution ot the international negotiating effort.

Under the U.S. proposal, developing countries would be exempt from abiding by the requirements in the medium term (2010 to 2020). Shlaes said under the U.S. plan, central and eastern European countries as well as Russia would be considered developed nations who would have to abide by the requirements when they take effect.

The United States says it will be critical to include developing countries in the next steps because finding a solution to the climate change problems will require a concerted global effort.

On Tuesday, British meteorologists said the Earth remained much warmer on average last year. They said worldwide measurements showed surface temperature of the Earth was about two-tenths of a degree above the average, from 1961 to 1990.

Britain's Meteorological Office said in a statement: "1996 remains consistent with the warming trend, which began in the mid-1970s."

Some scientists believe the increasing emissions of carbon-based gases, which come from a growing number of cars as well as industries, are to blame for the warming of the planet.

Climatologists say global warming does not mean consistently hotter temperatures the world over. But the general warming can cause more instability in the climate, which may result in severe storms, droughts and freezes.

Shlaes said the proposal set out by the United States has an unrealistic time-table, however.

He said the United States should study the issue extensively, as well as the accompanying costs, before committing itself to any targets. He said there is plenty of time available to study the issues.

Shlaes also questioned the U.S.'s willingness to let the United Nations monitor emission rates and impose penalties. "Will this change the way we do business in the United States?" he asked. He said the active U.N. involvement is a very new question which needs review and public debate.

"Each nation should take steps and measures it is comfortable with," Shlaes said.

He also questioned whether it will be possible to get such a multi-national agreement on the text of the treaty. Shlaes pointed out that Australia has drafted its own version of the text, very much different from the U.S. model. Poland and Germany also have their unique versions.

He said each country seems interested in protecting its own economy from undue U.N. restrictions.

"That's just natural," he said.