Bonn hosted the February/March meetings of the four FCCC subsidiary bodies, marking their first sessions in the secretariats new home town. SBSTA, SBI and AG-13 met during the first week to continue their work on issues such as budgetary matters, joint implementation, technology transfer and a multilateral consultative process. AGBM-6 set itself the task of "streamlining" its Framework Compilation of proposals into a negotiating text for its next session. In this regard, AGBM-6 was neither a disappointment nor a ripping success. Delegates managed to merge or eliminate some overlapping provisions within the myriad of proposals contained in the Compilation. They also officially gave the Chair a mandate to produce a draft negotiating text. However, other proposals emerged in the eleventh hour, such as one by the G-77 on QELROs, which signaled that AGBM-6 did not foster much progress on several fundamental points, despite the hopes of many observers. This meeting did not necessarily eliminate the number of proposals on the table, it simply straightened and sorted them. AGBM-6 brought the Parties one step, albeit a small one, closer to fulfilling its mandate.
A number of past disagreements did not rear their heads at this meeting, most notably over scientific uncertainty of climate change or the form of the new instrument to be adopted at COP-3. Nonetheless, the meeting unveiled a host of disagreements over the content of the protocol regarding issues such as timetables and targets, policies and measures, and compensation, and foreshadowed a number of battles on the horizon before Kyoto. In short, when it comes to the concepts now on the table, there still seems to be fundamental disagreement. AGBM Chair Estrada, in his opening comments, noted that one serious problem facing these negotiations was disagreement among developed countries on the content and treatment of issues that will form the basis of the protocol.
Indeed several noticeable disagreements, mostly trans-Atlantic, emerged with respect to the targets and timetable for QELROs and the specifics related to policies and measures. Delegates also differed on the idea of differentiating between Annex I Parties with regard to each Parties goal for lowered emissions. Developing countries, as well, voiced concerns, particularly on proposals containing unspecified new annexes and proposals on JI and trading.
QELROs: During the debate over QELROs, Parties voiced a number of diverse, often fundamentally different, perspectives. The EU, Switzerland and Norway were the only Annex I countries proposing specific targets. The strongest of these proposals came from the EU after its Ministerial Council meeting, calling for a 15% reduction across the EU by 2010, replacing a host of individual commitments from members of the EU. According to some, this proposal could overshadow the AOSIS protocol goal of 20% by 2005. The US, on the other hand, proposed emissions trading, multi-year emissions budgets, borrowing of emissions from future budgets and joint implementation with developing countries for credit. Apart from the few delegations who provided specific QELROs proposals, most governments based their proposals for strengthening commitments in Article 4.2 (a) and (b) on a call for flexibility. The aim of differentiation, as it was recurrently stated by its supporters during plenary and roundtable discussions, is to achieve maximum flexibility. Whereas some countries, including the US, Australia and New Zealand continued to insist on flexible measures, such as JI and emissions trading, others used the term "flexibility" for proposing to introduce different levels of commitment.
This request for "fairness" is based on the Berlin Mandates call for a consideration of different starting points of countries. If the concept of differentiation would find its way into a protocol or other legal instrument, most Parties would probably present "special circumstances," which could move the debate from its essence the reduction of GHG emissions to intractable distribution questions. Poland suggested resolving this problem by aggregating countries into groups. Germany and Russia followed this concept by proposing a certain degree of flexibility for countries with economies in transition. Norway and Iceland put forward a specific formula for differentiation for all countries. Australia, Iran, Japan and Poland proposed indicators or criteria on which differentiation could be based. Not many of these, however, addressed the more practical problems concerning information and quantification to determine a fair and equitable set of commitments. The EUs opposition to differentiating commitments caused some controversy, in particular after the EU presented its Environment Ministers Council decision to implement its own, quantified targets by taking on board joint commitments and internal burdensharing. Several Parties stated that they viewed the internal burdensharing concept of the EU as a contradiction to their opposition to differentiation. The US, formerly very strongly opposed to alternatives to a flat-rate approach, even suggested including the table with the differentiated reduction targets as a proposal for the protocol "to have a full range of options." Having lost strong speakers against differentiation, the debate seems to have moved slightly from whether differentiation is possible, to how differentiation can be accomplished.
The bottom line, however, still is that differentiation needs to be preceded by countries firm proposals for firm targets and timetables. A number of developing countries were strongly suspicious of both the US proposal for emissions trading and the EU proposal on P&Ms and argued that both would prove far too complicated for a protocol.
COMPENSATION: Developed countries voiced their own concern about a potentially complicated matter as another developing country issue came to the fore: impacts of P&Ms and compensation for these impacts. The G-77, particularly the oil-producing countries, called for concrete compensation mechanisms for adverse impacts on developing countries arising from implementation of response measures. Iran, Nigeria and Kuwait provided some detailed suggestions on these mechanisms, including the establishment of a compensation fund. Uzbekistan proposed to request the IPCC to make recommendations on ways to reduce negative impacts of Annex I commitments on developing countries. Reaction to these requests reflected that some delegations did not take the proposal too seriously and perhaps viewed it as a delaying strategy. One delegate asked if developed countries that suffer from increased oil prices would be eligible for compensation or if developed countries who help with adaptation measures would liable for injury. Within the G-77, AOSIS delegations responded that compensation should not concern lost revenues, but should address damages arising from temperature increases and sea level rise. Some participants expressed surprise that AOSIS did not voice stronger support for this proposal given its vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Others, however, suggested that AOSIS countries are fully aware of the practical problems in measuring, quantifying and billing for the impacts of climate change and a strong stance on this issue would merely be another stone in the road.
Nonetheless, some participants reported that the G-77 proposal announced during the final day will include a reference to compensation. Should support for this idea spread among members, the picture could become even more complicated. The already complicated mix of proposals on QELROs, according to many, raised more questions than it answered: how will JI and emissions trading be squared with QELROs? Under what conditions could developing countries accept AIJ and emissions trading? How will the EU stance against differentiation among Annex I countries square with the fact that emission reduction targets among EU countries range from a 40% increase to a 30% reduction? How closely will the US cling to many of its positions, when a number of delegations appear steadfastly opposed? Nonetheless, one participant reported that the G-77 proposals announced on the final day includes a "weak" reference to compensation. Should this concept become a focus of discussion, it will add another factor to an already complicated picture and delay progress towards a protocol.
SBSTA: Discussions in other subsidiary bodies are linked to the AGBM and could provide marker of progress and an indicator for future negotiations. This round of subsidiary body meetings was marked by a relative absence of science-related disagreements. Past SBSTA sessions involved controversies over use of the IPCC Second Assessment Report (SAR). In contrast, during AGBM-6, few if any delegates used scientific uncertainty to buttress their arguments. In fact, the EU cited the SARs results in presenting its proposed 15% emissions reduction target for the year 2010. Furthermore, IPCC Chair Bert Bolin created little reaction on the floor in stating that "no reasonable future reduction by Annex I countries would stabilize global emissions." Absence of a heated science debate and the methodological tasks SBSTA outlined for the work plan indicate that upcoming activities for the scientific community should focus on questions of implementation. It remains to be seen, however, what role scientists might play in assessing the impacts of P&M implementation by Annex I countries.
AG13: AG13s discussions on a future multilateral consultative process (MCP), while at an early stage, produced what was characterized as its own Framework Compilation from past proposals and, based on discussions, could likely encounter problems similar to the AGBM. While not exactly a microcosm, there is some solid agreement as well as divergent perspectives as AG13 is heading toward a negotiating process. Chair Patrick Sz�ll opened AG13-4 stating that the group cannot continue on a "diet of general statements" and, by the end of the session, noted that the group has achieved more than expected. Unlike the AGBM, delegates displayed a stronger willingness to compromise and incorporate proposals. This was particularly obvious when China and the EU tried to incorporate their proposals into the text. Like the AGBM, however, AG13s efforts to clarify the form of a future MCP leave many details unclear, particularly in defining its field of expertise and in squaring its work with that of the SBI and SBSTA. Similarly, AG13-4 indicated that some differences will need to be resolved regarding the fundamental question of whether an MCP should have an advisory or a supervisory role.
SBI: The SBIs discussions also indicated some areas of future disagreements. Delegates requested more time and more detailed information on many newly-proposed programmes, and expressed particular concern over the post-Kyoto process. Budget items for peer reviews of developing country national communications and mentions of emissions trading were not popular with developing countries. Developed countries voiced concern over a proposed increase in secretariat staff and the need for more resources. Delegates likewise requested more time to consider details of the GEF review. When discussing arrangements for COP-3, China and several other developing countries complained that negotiations on the Geneva Ministerial Declaration during COP-2 took them by surprise and, as a result, insisted on language noting that any new substantive proposals must be circulated six months prior to COP-3. When other delegations noted that standard UN practice provided ample warning, statements hinting at "conspiracy" and a lack of transparency arose frequently. This debate, waged at length, could prove particularly telling for Kyoto.
LOOKING TOWARDS KYOTO: During discussion on differentiation, a statement from the US noted that indicators can be read two ways. The indicators of progress for the climate change negotiations are equally equivocal. Whether these indicators signal that the AGBM is making slow, solid progress or slouching toward Kyoto seems a matter of opinion, as evidenced by participants comments.
One noted that the number of meetings will not hasten the progress of real action to combat climate change. Progress will occur when the constituencies that stand to gain from action are mobilized and supportive of the potentially painful measures that could be required. To date, with the exception of small island States, the groups that would benefit directly from action often appear only via general if not vague terms, such as "future generations of mankind" and "global benefit of all." Those who face immediate monetary losses, however, are far more tangible and frequently waiting in the lobby. Another observer noted that AGBM-6 marked a milestone if only because the number of government delegates was surpassed by the number of NGO representatives, most of whom came from industry.
One veteran observer commented that these negotiations were difficult and, given the scale of both the problem and the changes entailed by a solution, delegates were making considerable progress and will accomplish their assigned task. Another participant summarized the views of many skeptics by noting a certain irony: while Parties talked, positioned and bargained, the Rhein overflowed its banks due to unseasonably warm weather and melting snow in the mountains.
Chair Estrada made ample use of the gavel in the final sessions of AGBM-6 in an attempt to keep Parties focused on the proposals and away from lengthy debate. He noted that he may have to employ a heavy gavel with even more frequency at future AGBM meetings. Of all the signals and indicators regarding future sessions, this one is probably the safest bet.
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