By the mid-1990s, post-Cold War euphoria was waning, most East and Central European economies were collapsing, while neo-liberal, neo-conservative ideas about rationalizing the economy were being marketed to them and the developing countries in, inter alia, the water and energy fields as a way to enhance their development potential. Sustainable development appeared elusive as a guiding concept and was being used by all to promote practically any activity.
New science confirmed that climate change was a serious problem and stabilization at 350–750 ppmv required drastic GHG emission reductions (Houghton et al., 1995: 22). IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (IPCC-I, 2001: 10) confirmed that ‘most of the observed warming over the past 50 years is likely [66–90%] to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations’. The recognition of the inadequacy of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) targets, the Berlin Mandate, and US Vice-President Al Gore’s commitment to climate change were positive signals.
However, the US Senate Byrd–Hagel Resolution ( 1997 ) signalled that the Senate would not ratify any future agreement with targets for developed countries. Japan was also being careful. The European Union (EU) hedged its bets and invested in both quantitative targets and timetables and qualitative policies and measures. The USA supported policies first and then later switched to targets.
In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol with targets, policies and a range of market mechanisms was adopted against all odds, leading the way to operationalizing its content.