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The U.S. Performance in Achieving Its 1992 Earth Summit Global Warming Commitments

July 2002

Citation: 32 ELR 10741

Issue: 7

Author: Donald A. Brown

Many participants in the global warming debate recounted in this Article appear either to have been unaware of or have chosen to ignore numerous commitments made by the United States pursuant to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or Convention).1 For instance, on numerous occasions members of the U.S. Congress have opposed various global warming program proposals on the basis of alleged scientific uncertainty or the lack of commitment by developing countries to reduce emissions—positions that are arguably inconsistent with the UNFCCC. This unacknowledged relevance of the UNFCCC to U.S. policy on global warming is curious because the United States is a party to it notwithstanding the recent withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.

Commitments made by the United States under the UNFCCC included agreements to cooperate with other signatories in a number of specific ways, and promises to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, the Convention itself includes various provisions which limit the excuses that a signatory might use in ignoring its commitment to address global warming.

[Editors' Note: In June 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, the nations of the world formally endorsed the concept of sustainable development and agreed to a plan of action for achieving it. One of those nations was the United States. In August 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, these nations will gather in Johannesburg to review progress in the 10-year period since UNCED and to identify steps that need to be taken next. In anticipation of the Rio + 10 summit conference, Prof. John C. Dernbach is editing a book that assesses progress that the United States has made on sustainable development in the past 10 years and recommends next steps. The book, which is scheduled to be published by the Environmental Law Institute in June 2002, is comprised of chapters on various subjects by experts from around the country. This Article will appear as a chapter in that book. Further information on the book will be available at www.eli.org or by calling 1-800-433-5120 or 202-939-3844.]

Donald Brown is Director of the Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy. The opinions expressed in this Article are his own and in no way reflect the views of any of the organizations by whom he is or has been employed.

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