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  February 1998    

Keeping the heat down in Kyoto
UNU's GEIC serves as main information source at COP-3
Put diplomats from 160 countries plus lobbyists with at least as many agendas - hidden or open - into a bargaining situation and the result is bound to produce a heated scramble for information. Such was the case during the negotiations in Kyoto to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The negotiations took place from 1 to 11 December. Fortunately, delegates to the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-3) didn't have to scramble too much. The Global Environment Information Centre (GEIC) worked hard to make sure that everyone was kept aware of what was going on.

The GEIC is a joint UNU-Environment Agency of Japan (EAJ) initiative that was set up in 1996 to increase awareness in Japan of environmental problems. At Kyoto, the GEIC had six responsibilities:

  • Designing COP-3's Japanese-language homepage and determining its content;
  • Distributing information to delegates from the GEIC's on-site booth called CC: INFO Centre at COP-3;
  • Translating the conference proceedings into Japanese;
  • Broadcasting the protocol negotiations live over the Internet;
  • Setting up and running cyber cafés;
  • Organizing an event called "Furthering NGO Participation in the UNFCCC."
More than one million people visited the GEIC's Japanese-language homepage during the 11-day negotiations. Many of these information seekers accessed the site using one of the 130 computers available at the GEIC's CC: INFO Centre.

But while the GEIC staff managed to help keep delegates cool, they themselves came close to overheating several times. Translating all the conference proceedings into Japanese turned out to be a huge job. Most of the documents that had to be translated were long, analytical and written in legal jargon. However, the effort was well appreciated. Many Japanese government bureaus, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Environment Agency, relied on the GEIC's speedy translations to keep up on what was unfolding.

The GEIC's event "Furthering NGO Participation in the UNFCCC," which was held on 8 December, was a big success. There were six guest speakers; among them was Akiko Domoto, president of the parliamentarian group called GLOBE Japan. The others included NGO representatives, businessmen and Climate Change Secretariat officials. The event was televised live over the Internet to more than 60 countries.

With the COP-3 bargaining process over with and done, the GEIC is now working on the hottest and potentially hardest part of the whole climate change objective: getting local governments to implement the new agreement.

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