Climate Change Talks

The question of what role nuclear electricity generation can play in the fight to limit environmental emissions of carbon dioxide is among issues on the table at climate change talks scheduled to resume 16 - 27 July in Bonn.

The talks -- officially the resumption of the Sixth Conference of Parties (COP-6) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), were suspended in November 2000.

COP-6 seeks to set the operational details for commitments on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and for implementation of the Buenos Aires Action Plan adopted in 1998. Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries agreed to binding limitations on their greenhouse gas emissions for the period 2008-2013. They also agreed to three "flexibility mechanisms" that would establish a "market" for greenhouse gas reductions, with specific rules to be worked out. Of these three mechanisms, one known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is open to developing countries. Under it, any industrialized country may sponsor efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in a developing country by, for example, financing an eligible project (namely, one that otherwise would not occur), and then receiving carbon-reduction credits in return.

One point of contention has been nuclear energy projects under the CDM. Efforts to exclude nuclear energy -- as well as large-scale hydropower and clean coal-powered electricity generation projects -- as a flexibility mechanism faltered at COP-6. When the talks resume this summer, the establishment of an international emissions trading system and a CDM are among the key issues that must be resolved.

"With the Kyoto Protocol's initial emission targets set to kick in by 2008, it is time for political leaders to respond to the warnings of the scientists by putting into place policies that will lead to early and cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," said Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. For more information, visit the organization's Web site.

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Last update: 11 November 2014