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Conference Makes Little Progress

February 15, 1991

CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) _ Delegates from about 100 nations concluded a 10-day conference on global warming Thursday with little agreement on anything except to pursue the problem further later this year.

Environmentalists expressed disappointment over the pace of the United Nations proceedings, the first negotiating steps toward approving a treaty to limit emissions of the so-called ″greenhouse″ gases.

Many European countries would like a treaty with a timetable for cutting carbon dioxide emissions, the major contributor to global warming. Some nations already have committed to stabilizing or reducing carbon dioxide by the year 2000.

Carbon dioxide is an inevitable product of the burning of fossil fuels.

Other nations, including the United States, have been reluctant to commit themselves to specific emission reductions, fearful that a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels might threaten economic growth.

These philosophical differences moved to the foreground almost immediately in the opening session of talks more than a week ago and served as a backdrop during the daily discussions that concluded late Thursday at a plush conference resort in the Virginia countryside.

The delegates agreed to establish two working groups that will begin to consider a general draft of a treaty at a second round of talks later this year. It remained unclear when and where the next negotiations would be held.

Late Thursday, it was decided that a working group would be established to consider both the need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and fiinancial and technical assistance to developing countries to deal with global warming.

Much discussions during the conference revolved around the scope of future negotiations.

For example, the United States had insisted that the working group discuss not only carbon dioxide emissions, but other greenhouse gases as well. Some European delegations had insisted that emphasis be placed on carbon dioxide since the principal other man-made greenhous gases, the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, already are being reduced under an existing treaty.

Several delegations from developing nations insisted that the subject of financial and technological assistance be given priority treatment by the working groups. At the same time the United States sought to make certain the organizing language did not commit anyone to specific levels of financial assistance.

″I’ve seen glaciers move faster than this,″ said Arlen Meyer, one of the environmentalists observing the proceedings.

″They’ve spent 10 days yammering about the shape of the table. They’re not even seriously negotiating. There’s nothing substantive being discussed,″ complained Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club. ″It’s devastatingly disappointing.″

Some members of both European and U.S. delegations also said they were disappointed with the lack progress made during the 10 days of discussions, although none of these officials would speak for attribution.

While scientists agree the release of carbon dioxide and other gases is causing a warming of the earth as the gases trap the sun’s heat, there is disagreement over how much of an impact such warming might have.

An international task force of scientists concluded last year that the earth could warm as much as 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the next century if industrial emissions are not stabilized. Some scientists, however, say the impact of such warming might be mitigated by a variety of other geological processes.

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