Kyoto Shimbun 1997.12.10

COP3 Final Morning: Still No Agreement

As the COP3 conference heads into it's final day, the finish line is still out of sight. Participants have been unable to reach a consensus on numerical goals for the reduction of green house gas emissions, which serve as the focal point for negotiations on what has been billed as a historic agreement to protect the earth through the 21st century. The poker-faced delegates from each country and the various NGO representatives are clearly fatigued and tense, as they walk around the conference site in preparation for the final round of negotiations. We followed the action as the participants headed into the final countdown.

Government Delegations
On the final morning, the delegations of the developed nations continued last-minute negotiations as they waited for the opening of the meeting of the Committee of the Whole. "No matter what happens, we must complete the Kyoto Protocol. I don't want this to go into overtime," said an EU delegation representative at 9:00 AM as he headed into a working meeting, coffee cup in hand, that continued from the previous night.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat was bathed by a flurry of questions from the media, asking him "what about a proposal from the U.S. for a breakthrough?" Mr. Eizenstat avoided discussing any details, and replied only "that's still being negotiated" before getting onto the elevator.

"I was only able to sleep about 4 hours last night. Thanks to the efforts of Prime Minister Hashimoto, the participant nations have told us they will "cooperate for the success of the Kyoto conference." I think we're going in the right direction," said Chairman and Japan Environment Chief Oki as he rushed off to an informal meeting of developed nations. The meeting was attended by representatives of the U.S. and the E.U., and Chairman Estrada also joined the meeting a little after 10:00 AM.

NGO Delegations
Early in the morning, members of various NGOs began passing out pamphlets to the government delegates in front of the International Conference Hall, and appealed for "major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions." An angry Australian environmental protection group member criticized the Chairman's Proposal made on Dec. 9, which allows for increases in emissions of greenhouse gases, saying that "As a fellow Australian, I am embarrassed by this proposal."

"The proposed protocol is full of loopholes. This kind of agreement will not do anything to protect the earth's environment," said an indignant Satoshi Nomura of the Environmental Citizens (Nakagyo Ward, Japan).

The various NGO delegations analyzed the contents of the proposal presented by Chairman Estrada on the evening of Dec. 9, and then carried out lobbying activities with the delegates of the developed nations. However, since the direction of the conference is not at all clear, many of the NGOs have found that it is "difficult to make effective presentations to the delegates." "We are going to observe the meeting of the Committee of the Whole, and if there appears to be some movement, we will discuss what course of action to take," said a member of the WWF (World Wide Found for Nature).

Conference Site
"I don't know how the overnight negotiations went. Now things are going to get really tough," commented a fatigued delegate from the Republic of Nauru, who felt that the direction of the conference is still unclear.

Journalists and members of NGOs gathered in the observers seats at the meeting hall for the Committee of the Whole, but even at 12:30 PM there was still no sign that negotiations were going to start again. Chairman Oki was seen going back and forth from the developing nations' negotiating rooms on the second floor of the International Conference Hall, demonstrating the tense negotiations going on even at the last moments.

When it was announced that the Committee of the Whole meeting would be delayed until 1:00 PM, some of the delegations left their seats. Later on, the Committee for the Whole began negotiations in the afternoon, and then stopped before 7:00 PM for a rest until 11:00 PM. The developed nations reached agreement on the following reductions of greenhouse gas emissions: Japan 6%, the U.S. 7%, and the EU 8%. After reaching agreement among themselves, the developed nations then turned to negotiations with the developing nations. The U.S. is standing firm on requiring strong commitments from the developing nations to reduce their emissions as part of the agreement, and this is sure to be a source of confrontation in the oncoming negotiations. The current view is that agreement will be reached sometime late tonight, or before dawn on the morning of Dec. 11. The question now is whether they will be able to come to a consensus or not. The conference site is filled with frustration and disappointment at the continued delay in the agreement.

The journalists from each country started covering this fateful day's activities before dawn, despite their obvious fatigue. "I think that the closed-door negotiations between the U.S., Japan and the E.U. are moving towards agreement. I haven't slept much, but if a consensus can be reached today, I will be happy," said a journalist from the AFP as he worked on his article.

Inside the International Conference Hall, journalists were busy interviewing and photographing the delegates from each country. "I am focusing on whether or not the U.S. and the E.U. can reach a compromise, and the role that the host country Japan will play in this process," said a German radio announcer who had just interviewed a U.S. delegate.