San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Country Supports Kyoto Protocol, Countries Pledge to Combat Climate Change

AS Artic ice melts into the Atlantic and scientistswarn the planet’s oceans continue to heat up, the governmentsof most of the world have chosen to stopignoring the threat of an impending climate crisis.The Kyoto Protocol, a multilateral agreement tocombat global warming by reducing greenhouse emissions,went into effect last week – without the world’slargest polluter, the United States, to the dismay ofmany supporters.More than 140 countries, including Costa Rica, haveratified the treaty, named after the Japanese city ofKyoto where it was negotiated in 1997.HAILED as the first legal instrument to outline therelationship between economic development and the environment, the protocol obligates 30industrialized nations to limit the emissionsof six major greenhouse gases duringthe five-year period from 2008-2012, takingthem to below 1990 levels, accordingto a statement from the United Nations.Japan and the European Union, forexample, have committed to cutting theseemissions by 6% and 8%, respectively.FOREIGN residents of Costa Ricaexpressed diverging opinions about theUnited States’ exit from the agreement.“It’s a regrettable decision… not verywise,” said Jo Stuart, president of DemocratsAbroad Costa Rica. U.S. PresidentGeorge W. Bush “says he has a budget for(climate-change) research, but that money’sgoing into nuclear power plants.”U.S. citizen Norma Lenkowsky, memberand former president of the Women’sClub of Costa Rica, said she “naturallywould like to see the United States do everythingit possibly can for the environment.”The executive director of the CostaRican-American Chamber of Commerce(AmCham), Lynda Solar, said “for themoment, AmCham will abstain from givingany commentaries on the protocol,”because the chamber has too many othertopics on its agenda.BRITISH Embassy spokeswomanVicky Baxter said, “The United Kingdomis a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol,and we are quite advanced in the control ofgas emissions.”According to Baxter, the U.K. hasalready reduced emissions of six key gasesby 14%, taking them to their 1990 levels.“We have the ambitious target ofreducing gas emissions by 60% by the year2050,” she said.The European Union, considered aglobal leader on climate change, wasinstrumental in saving the Kyoto agreementafter the United States backed out bysecuring ratification from Russia.Baxter said that because the U.K. willpreside the European Union this year, thecountry plans to apply pressure to theUnited States to reevaluate its decision.THOUGH the United States refusedto sign the treaty, it is working “domesticallyand internationally to address thelong-term challenge of global climatechange,” said Richard Boucher, aspokesman for the U.S. State Department,in a statement released by the U.S.Embassy in San José.According to Boucher, President Bushplans to reduce greenhouse emissions by18% by 2012, preventing 500 million tonsof carbon from being released in the nextseven years.“While the United States and countrieswith binding emissions restrictions underthe Kyoto Protocol are taking differentpaths, our destination is the same, andcompatible with other efforts,” Bouchersaid in the statement.TOWARD this end, the United Stateshas budgeted $5.8 billion for scientificresearch, climate-change technology researchand development, foreign aid programsand energy initiatives.However, Bush, who withdrew theUnited States from the Kyoto pact in 2001for “economic reasons and because he considersthe fact that developing countriesare not required to reduce their gas emissionsunjustifiable,” according to EFEwire-service, has been the target of worldwidecriticism for his decision.This week, during his first visit toEurope after his second inauguration,demonstrators in Germany greeted theU.S. President with protests and signs saying,“Not welcome, Mr. Bush.”DEVELOPING countries such asCosta Rica signed the treaty but are notexpected to officially reduce their gasemissions.Chemical engineer Ana Rita Chacón,chief of the Gas Emissions Inventory forCosta Rica’s National MeteorologicalInstitute (IMN), said, “We signed it as amoral commitment, although we are notobligated to reduce emissions.”She said Costa Rica emits the sameamount of gases as it did in 1990 – approximately4 million tons per year.“Costa Rica has proposed and carriedout various projects within the frameworkof the Clean Development Mechanism(MDL) outlined in the agreement, includinghydroelectric and wind-power projects,”Chacón said.THE mechanism is a system of cooperationbetween industrialized and developingnations, Chacón explained.“Developing countries propose projects,for instance, a hydroelectric projectto reduce a given amount of emissions, andindustrialized nations support the project’sexecution. Later, the industrialized nationcan discount the percentage of emissionsthe developing country reduced, from theshare they are obligated to reduce as stipulatedby the protocol,” she said.The Costa Rican Office of JointImplementation (OCIC), created in 1996,has been designated the national authority inthe execution of MDL projects, theMeteorological Institute said in a statement.Among the projects under way is amethane “recycling” project to produceelectricity at the Río Azul landfill inDesamparados, a southern suburb of SanJosé.(Next: Read about research conducted inCosta Rica to determine the effects ofglobal warming on the tropical rain forest.)

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