Perhaps the most difficult problem to be addressed at the conference on climate issues concerns India, China, Brazil and other major developing nations. They generally argue that under the mandate establishing the talks, they are exempt from emissions restrictions in the current negotiations.
Developed countries, they say, are believed to have contributed three-fourths of the greenhouse gases emitted over the past century, while the developing world is responsible for one-fourth. Now, the developing countries say, it is their turn to catch up.
But countering their argument are projections showing that as China, India and other developing economic powerhouses continue to grow, their greenhouse gas emissions will surpass those of the industrialized nations sometime during the 20-year period beginning in 2025.
The Global Climate Coalition and others say that giving China a pass would only encourage multinational companies to move manufacturing operations there to avoid installing the expensive emissions-reducing equipment required to help the United States meet its assigned targets.
During the next 10 weeks, President Clinton has several options.
He can negotiate a firm agreement with real restrictions and try to win Senate ratification - a process that would take several years. Or he can accept a watered-down pact, on the theory that some progress is better than none. Or he can walk away from any treaty in Kyoto, Japan, that does not include commitments from developing and developed countries.