Summing Up the Kyoto Accord

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The diplomat who deftly rescued the climate change treaty negotiations from collapse last December in Kyoto, Japan, told a group of reporters here this morning that he harbors no illusions that the next stage in the process--reaching an agreement on how to achieve the goals laid out in the treaty--will be any easier.

Raul Estrada-Oyeula, the Argentine ambassador to China, chaired the Kyoto talks, in which more than 160 countries signed an agreement to rein in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2012. He'll also head a follow-up meeting in November in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to hammer out details for implementing the treaty. One approach, he said, might include "trading" schemes under which, for example, a European utility would buy a permit to emit gases in exchange for building an energy-efficient factory abroad.

Estrada admits that the negotiations face rough sledding. The U.S. Senate, for example, wants developing countries to sign before ratifying the treaty. But Estrada doubts that more than a "framework" for participation by those countries will come out of Buenos Aires. "Of course it's always possible" that some countries will commit to emissions targets before the meeting, he said, "but my feeling is it's difficult." Those countries in turn are waiting for developed nations to take action, he said, and "nobody believes the U.S. is going to [ratify] the protocol in the first 2 years."

Still, Estrada says he's confident the treaty will move forward, and he described the trading scheme as a "transitional mechanism" to "something better" after 2012. When asked what comes next, however, he declined to comment, saying only, "by that time, I will be retired."