Melinda Kimble, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and Ambassador Mark Hambley, Special Negotiator for Climate Change, U.S. Delegation to the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, Briefing, Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 2, 1998


MS. POVENMIRE: Good evening.  I'd like to welcome you to the
first official press briefing of the U.S. Delegation at COP-4 in
Buenos Aires.  We have this evening to answer your questions
Melinda Kimble, who is Acting Assistant Secretary and is the head
of the Delegation, and also Ambassador Mark Hambley, who is
Special Negotiator for Climate Change.

I'd like to make an announcement that we expect and intend to
provide a transcript of this briefing both in English and in
Spanish language as soon as possible, perhaps this evening but by
tomorrow morning, and these transcripts will be available on our
web site.  If you'd like that address, feel free to ask me
afterwards and I can give that to you.

Melinda Kimble will open the session with a few opening remarks
and when we go to questions, I'd like to ask you to please
identify yourself and your news organization before you ask your
question.  Thank you.  Melinda?

MS. KIMBLE: Thank you very much, Susan and I want to say that I
am extremely pleased to be here and to take this opportunity to
discuss the opening day and what is the very important and
clearly very active and potentially extremely productive
conference here in Buenos Aires.  I think we saw some very
interesting discussions in the Plenary today.  I think that what
is most important about those discussions is that we began to see
that even countries that think we shouldn't begin to focus on
next steps -- which is commitments by developing countries, given
the commitments taken by Annex 1 parties in Kyoto -- many
countries recognize that this is a necessity and that is very
important.  It's also true  if you examine the statements very
carefully, that many countries are looking for a way to insure
that countries can do this.  And I think that the other
encouraging thing is the issue remains in the hands of the Chair,
and that is also extremely encouraging.

I would like to pay a particular compliment to the government of
Argentina and certainly to the leadership of the President of the
Conference,  Maria Julia Alsogaray, the Minister of Environment,
because I think she is challenging all of us to think how we can
contribute to solving a global problem, and she is doing it in a
constructive and non-confrontational way and in that sense I
think it's gotten this conference off to a tremendously
impressive start.

I think it's important to understand that in this issue
controversy is not new; in fact controversy has frequently been
the "leit motiv" of these discussions over many years, and what
we are beginning to see is the development of a debate on next
steps.  I think it is also important to say that we see a lot of
commitment out there on the part of all parties to the convention
to both move on implementation issues and move on elaboration of
elements of the Kyoto Protocol.  So this has certainly been one
of the best days actually I have experienced in the Climate
Change process and I look forward to more progress and good work
in the coming days.

Mark, maybe you would like to make some comments.

AMB HAMBLEY: Thank you, Melinda, again, thank you all for joining
us here this evening. I too would like to indicate my great
pleasure being here in Buenos Aires. I think indeed the term
'good aires' is indeed something of which we are going to see
more of as we proceed through our work over the next two weeks.
I think those who indicated that a controversial issue might
perhaps blow up the proceedings and stop us in our tracks -- I
think the discussion today quite contrary to that prognosis -- in
fact did make us move forward.   I must say, I think in addition
the statements by governments, the opening statements, were very
positive in terms of engendering the spirit which I think takes
all of us wanting to move forward in terms of creating some
momentum from Kyoto into reaching conclusions which will indeed
advance this process as we move forward.  Thank you.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Can you tell us how many countries have
ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and is there a place where you
can give us which of these countries have actually ratified it,
if ratification is required?

MS. KIMBLE: Ratification is required for the Protocol to come
into force and that is spelled out in the body of the protocol.
I think it's important to understand that even the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change Secretariat suggested that
ratification could probably not be completed before 2003.  What
has happened to date is I believe 59 countries have signed the
Protocol and one country, Fiji, has ratified.  We understand that
the process may be moving very rapidly in Argentina but you would
have to check with the Government of Argentina as to the status
of their process.

AMB HAMBLEY: I would just note to amplify that somewhat that in
order for the agreement to come into force, it requires 55
countries to ratify and those 55 countries in addition must have
55% of CO2 emissions based on 1990 levels.  That's quite a high
order in  terms of their ratification, although there are some 59
countries that have signed, even should all those countries
ratify it would still be well under the 55% of CO2 emissions.
There is still quite a ways to go before this agreement will be
coming into being.

RADIO CANADA: How important are the issues of sinks and those
other things that have to be dealt with other countries compared
to the ones that are to be dealt internally in the States, like
the legislative measures that you can take and everything, how
each one of these sector accounts for what you can hope in
reductions.

MS. KIMBLE: I am not sure I fully understand your question but
let me talk a moment to the issue of sinks.  The United States
from the beginning of this process made very clear that we needed
to have a comprehensive approach to the climate problem.  We
couldn't focus solely on industrial emissions.  We had to
recognize there were other factors in the carbon cycle.  In some
cases these factors include agricultural production projects,
like the raising of cattle or  the raising of sheep or  the
raising of pigs.  Other things that contribute to certain
greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere from the AG sector are
things like methane emissions from rice paddies.  So we made very
clear that we had to look at many things.

Now another factor that is very important in this process is
forestry and soil conservation.  That gets to what we call sinks
because forests in their growing cycle sequester carbon rather
than release it.  This is important for any country with large
land masses and forest cover and it's equally important for
countries that are rapidly developing and going through land use
changes because they are releasing soil carbon and often
deforesting at the same time.  It's vital that we get a
comprehensive accounting for the carbon cycle as we go through
working on this process.  It's critical to countries like North
America and Canada that sinks be factored into the process.   We
have large land mass, wide forestry areas, big agricultural
production sectors that can actually contribute very
successfully, through sound agricultural management, to effective
remediation or off-sets for greenhouse gas emissions in other
sectors.  So every single part of the equation is important
because it is a cycle.  There are sources in sinks and the thing
that actually the JUSSCANNZ Group was very, very attached to in
Kyoto was the comprehensive accounting of the carbon cycle and
the need to work on methodologies to ensure this was correct.

Now there is an issue of what you do domestically, what you do
globally, how you address this problem overall.  What I think is
the most innovative thing we have achieved to date is in the
context of the Kyoto Protocol we've set in place the opportunity
to use market mechanisms to encourage firms and industrial and
agricultural and other sectors to look at this problem in a new
way, to evaluate what they're sequestering and what they are
emitting, and to work in a market-based scheme to address this
problem.  If we bring the Protocol into force, there will be
incentives to encourage innovation in the industrial sector, to
address problems in both emissions of greenhouse gases in uses of
things like automobiles.  There will be innovation in the
agricultural and forestry sector that promotes sound practices
and encourages good management of these natural resources.

AMB HAMBLEY: I would just add that with regard to the sinks
issue, obviously sinks are very complicated and it is also very
important that we get a good handle on them.  I think that this
process has made a good step in that direction by advice and
decisions taken at the meetings of the subsidiary bodies in June,
at which a process was developed which will I think allow us to
come up with the answers we need in order to form our own
opinions as to the utility of sinks in terms of our own targets,
etc.  And that process involves workshops held in September which
dealt with the afforestation, deforestation, reforestation
aspects of sinks, brought together experts from government, as
well as from universities and from international organizations,
to discuss ways in which these factors may indeed be related to
this overall issue -- and they then provided information to the
Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change to its plenary meeting
in Vienna in late September -- which then has now come up with a
procedure wherein they will have a special report which will
analyze only those aspects of sinks, but also other categories as
well as land use and forestry changes in terms of sinks.  That
also will be followed up by workshops to be held in the United
States on what is called Category 3.4 aspects of sinks.  Then I
think within about 18 months we should have a report which I
think will further advance our knowledge and give us ability to
finally come up with some decisions we need in order to take in
full account this important aspect of our process.

AUSTRALIAN MEDIA OUTLETS: Given the debate that occurred today
over the Argentinean proposal and in the lead up to today the
debate that was occurring, how do you now judge the relative
unity of the G-77 on this issue, or indeed the emerging disunity
within the G-77 on this issue, and secondly in dealing with the
market mechanisms, given that the market in some areas is already
working on trades and some trades have been accomplished, where
does the United States stand on the matter of early crediting for
those trades?

AMB HAMBLEY: In terms of the first aspect of your question
regarding the G77 and China, its position on item 6, I think this
was indicated quite clearly by the spokesman for the G77/China,
Ambassador OFINDAE (phonetic) of Indonesia, there is no consensus
within the G77/China on this issue.  I think there was a
reluctance on the part of some countries to speak up on this
issue in an open plenary.  I think though there were some
revealing comments made by several governments in the G77 which
were supportive of Argentina's views.  I think Argentina was
certainly very articulate in terms of expressing why they believe
countries in certain positions may indeed wish to take on a
commitment at one point in the future and their need frankly to
have discussion to find out what they need in order to reach that
particular decision.  And I think that this is sort of the first
time this discussion has ever taken place within the Conference
of the Parties.  It will not be the last time, but I think as we
move forward we will have additional countries coming forward
with additional ideas of how we might bring forth this discussion
in a more fruitful manner in the future.

MS. KIMBLE: The Administration has strongly supported early
crediting.  We hoped to have a successful program in place but
that actually did not occur in this budget but just as we were
closing our legislative session, three Senators introduced an
early crediting proposal, and actually this is a very important
initiative because it is a bipartisan proposal, including two
Republican and one Democratic senators, so we are hoping that
this idea will get seriously looked at in the next Congress and
we very much welcome the bipartisan initiative that's going on
here.

NHK JAPAN BROADCASTING: Now that the problem of participation of
developing nations is deleted from the agenda and how can you
secure the possible participation of these countries and how can
you sell.....how this might effect your authority to get more
support domestically.

AMB HAMBLEY: Well, I think by the tone of your question you are
depicting it sort of as somewhat of a  defeat -- somewhat as a
setback.  Quite to the contrary, we see this as being a step
forward.  There was a very full discussion of this issue.  The
first time I think in the history of this process.   In addition
the item is not dead, it's now in the hands of the Chair.   So we
look forward to seeing how it will develop by the end of this two
week process.

REUTERS: Just elaborating on that question....I guess my question
would be has there been any indication from the House or the
Senate or from President Clinton himself as to whether meaningful
participation from developing countries would have to come in the
context of the Kyoto Protocol or whether unilateral or voluntary
commitments could come on the sidelines or in a parenthetical way
to the Kyoto Protocol.  And,  therefore help it pass or be
ratified by the U.S.

MS. KIMBLE: Well I think first of all you have to look very
carefully at the Senate resolution that suggests very clearly
that developing countries should take on targets and timetables.
I think we believe there are probably many ways to achieve this
essential criteria, and we also believe the targets and
timetables are not appropriate for all countries.  I mean clearly
there are whole group of very low income, very low emitters among
the developing countries who are not at a stage where they can
take on targets and timetables.   We believe as we said at Kyoto
that there is scope nonetheless for very advanced developing
countries to consider taking on growth targets.  At the time we
made this statement in Kyoto we did not have the Kyoto Protocol.

Today we have the Kyoto Protocol and its potential for both
macroeconomic planning and flexibility for developing countries
is very important, should they choose to take on a target and
engage in international emissions trading.  It's also very
important  for developing countries to understand the options
under the Clean Development Mechanism, which is the first time in
any multilateral environmental agreement we have put in place a
mechanism that has the potential for incentivising the transfer
of technology from the private sector to developing countries.

We think these are two very powerful instruments that deserve
very careful consideration.  We believe that there are many many
ways and many of them are spelled out in the Framework Convention
on Climate Change, of addressing this problem, and we are
prepared to look at all steps countries are taking -- but  we
also think it's important that countries understand and consider
taking advantage of the new opportunities offered them in Kyoto.

USIA: Could you elaborate a little more specifically why you
thought today was such a productive day for the start of the
meeting.

MS. KIMBLE: Well, as we've outlined before we believe first and
foremost we had a chance to have a very substantive discussion on
what countries do next; what is the road after Kyoto.  Many
people spoke of a pathway to new commitments.  I think this is
the first time we have had this discussion; it was carried on in
a very clearly engaged manner.  Countries were looking for ways
forward -- even developing countries who spoke to the idea that
this item should not be on the agenda, then turned around and
said but there is a way to do this if you want  to, you can join
Annex 1.  I mean this kind of statement in a plenary of this type
I think is very much a step forward.  It starts to open ideas, it
starts to look at new ways of going forward, and beyond that I
want to reiterate that every single country that spoke today
spoke of the progress they hope to make here.  And they
identified the elaboration of Kyoto Protocol mechanisms as well
as implementation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
And I think that too is extremely positive.

AMB HAMBLEY: If I could just add, Jim, I think also it's
important to recognize that prior to today's discussion there was
much, much concern expressed by many governments, not just in the
developing world but also from the Annex 1 parties as well, that
any indication, any discussion of this item would be disastrous.
There would be immediately chaos on the floor; that the process
would be stopped.  Quite the contrary, we had a very professional
discussion.  It went on for several hours.  I think about 24-25
countries spoke during the actual deliberations.  I think all
their comments were quite thoughtful, certainly from the heart
many of them, some of them very much strongly against this issue,
many of them however also for this issue.   I think that in the
end now the Chair has taken this on under her own advisement we
will hear what comes out later on in this process, but I think as
well as Melinda indicated countries soon as this issue ended
indeed were willing to go forward and I think now will take
matters into subsidiary bodies and try to make progress in those
areas.

BBC WORLD SERVICE: Can you tell us about what are the prospects
of ratification in the U.S. of the Protocol and if this voluntary
action by developing countries would help that.

MS. KIMBLE: Well, I think it's clear that President Clinton has
spelled out that the Kyoto Protocol remains a work in progress,
and that the missing piece of the Kyoto initiative if you will is
meaningful participation by key developing countries.  Certainly
voluntary commitments in the context that Argentina made this
proposal I think will clearly be read as a step forward.

MS. POVENMIRE: Thank you everyone.  That concludes this briefing.
Thank you for coming.


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