Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 12 No. 192
Wednesday, 5 June 2002
SIXTEENTH SESSIONS OF THE SUBSIDIARY BODIES TO THE
UN FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
5-14 JUNE 2002
The Sixteenth Sessions of the Subsidiary Bodies
(SB-16) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC) begins today at the Maritim Hotel in Bonn, Germany.
Having completed three years of negotiations on the operational
details of the Kyoto Protocol in November 2001, Parties to SB-16
will take up a variety of issues, including: technology transfer;
the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC); a proposal on cleaner or less greenhouse
gas-emitting energy; national communications; implementation of
UNFCCC Article 4.8 and 4.9 and Protocol Article 2.3 (adverse
effects); matters relating to least developed countries (LDCs);
capacity building; preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD); and methodological issues, including guidelines
under Protocol Articles 5, 7, and 8, and land use, land-use change
and forestry (LULUCF). Outcomes from the Fourth Session of the
Preparatory Committee for the WSSD, being held in Bali until 7 June,
may have an impact on the discussions at SB-16.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UNFCCC AND THE KYOTO
Climate change is considered one of the most
serious threats to human health and well-being, the global economy,
and the sustainability of the world's environment. Mainstream
scientists agree that the Earth's climate is affected by the
anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.
Despite some lingering uncertainties, a majority of scientists
believe that precautionary and prompt action is necessary.
The international political response to climate
change took shape with the development of the UNFCCC. Adopted in
1992, the UNFCCC sets out a framework for action aimed at
stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid
"dangerous interference" with the climate system. The UNFCCC entered
into force on 21 March 1994. It now has 186 Parties.
THE KYOTO PROTOCOL: In 1995, the first
meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-1) established the
Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate, whose task was to reach
agreement on strengthening efforts to combat climate change.
Following intense negotiations culminating at COP-3 in Kyoto, Japan,
in December 1997, delegates agreed to a Protocol to the UNFCCC that
commits developed countries and countries making the transition to a
market economy to achieve quantified emissions targets. These
countries, known under the UNFCCC as Annex I Parties, committed
themselves to reducing their overall emissions of six greenhouse
gases by at least 5% below 1990 levels over the period 2008 and 2012
(the first commitment period), with specific targets varying from
country to country. The Protocol also established three mechanisms
to assist Annex I Parties in meeting their national targets
cost-effectively – an emissions trading system, joint implementation
(JI) of emissions-reduction projects between Annex I Parties, and a
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to encourage projects in non-Annex
I (developing country) Parties.
It was left for subsequent meetings to decide on
most of the rules and operational details that determine how these
cuts in emissions will be achieved and how countries' efforts will
be measured and assessed. Eighty-four countries have signed the
Protocol. To enter into force, the Protocol must be ratified by 55
Parties to the UNFCCC, including Annex I Parties representing at
least 55% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990. To date,
73 Parties have ratified the Protocol, including 21 Annex I Parties,
representing a total of 35.4% of the emissions.
THE BUENOS AIRES PLAN OF ACTION: At COP-4,
which met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 1998, Parties set
a schedule for reaching agreement on the operational details of the
Protocol and for strengthening implementation of the UNFCCC itself.
In a decision known as the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA),
delegates agreed that the deadline for reaching agreement should be
COP-6. Critical Protocol-related issues needing resolution included
rules relating to the mechanisms, a regime for assessing Parties'
compliance, and accounting methods for national emissions and
emissions reductions. Rules on crediting countries for carbon sinks
were also to be addressed. Issues under the UNFCCC requiring
resolution included questions of capacity building, the development
and transfer of technology, and assistance to those developing
countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of
climate change or to actions taken by industrialized countries to
combat climate change.
Numerous formal and informal meetings and
consultations were held during 1999 and 2000 to help lay the
foundations for an agreement at COP-6. However, as COP-6 drew
closer, political positions on the key issues remained entrenched,
with little indication of a willingness to compromise.
COP-6 PART I: COP-6 and the resumed
thirteenth sessions of the UNFCCC's subsidiary bodies were held in
The Hague, the Netherlands, from 13-25 November 2000. During the
second week of negotiations, COP-6 President Jan Pronk, Minister of
Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment of the Netherlands,
attempted to facilitate progress on the many disputed political and
technical issues by convening high-level informal Plenary sessions.
He grouped the issues into the following four "clusters" or "boxes":
(a) capacity building, technology transfer, adverse effects and
guidance to the financial mechanism; (b) mechanisms; (c) LULUCF;
and, (d) compliance, policies and measures (P&Ms), and accounting,
reporting and review under Protocol Articles 5 (methodological
issues), 7 (communication of information) and 8 (review of
However, by Thursday, 23 November, negotiations
remained stalled, and President Pronk distributed a Note containing
his proposal on key issues in an attempt to encourage a
breakthrough. After almost 36 hours of intense talks, negotiators
could not achieve an agreement, with financial issues,
supplementarity in the use of the mechanisms, compliance and LULUCF
proving particularly difficult. On Saturday afternoon, 25 November,
President Pronk announced that delegates had failed to reach
agreement. Delegates agreed to suspend COP-6, and expressed a
willingness to resume their work in 2001.
PREPARATIONS FOR COP-6 PART II: A number of
meetings and consultations were convened after COP-6 Part I in an
effort to get negotiations back on track. In late June 2001,
President Pronk presented a consolidated negotiating text to help
negotiators reach a compromise. However, while some participants
expressed the opinion that positions did not appear to have shifted
since COP-6 Part I, others suggested that positions had possibly
widened on issues such as LULUCF, sinks in the CDM, and funding.
In addition to official preparations for COP-6
Part II, there were a number of political developments following the
meeting in The Hague. In March 2001, the US administration
repudiated the Protocol, stating that it considered the Protocol to
be "fatally flawed," as it would damage its economy and it exempts
developing countries from emissions targets.
COP-6 PART II: COP-6 Part II and the
fourteenth sessions of the UNFCCC's subsidiary bodies met in Bonn,
Germany, from 16-27 July 2001. From 16-18 July, delegates met in
closed negotiating groups to settle differences on key texts. On 19
July, the high-level segment began, with participants striving to
achieve a "political" decision on key outstanding issues. After
protracted consultations, President Pronk presented his proposal for
a draft political decision outlining agreement on core elements of
the BAPA. However, in spite of several Parties announcing that they
could support the political decision, disagreements surfaced over
the section on compliance. After several further days of
consultations, ministers finally agreed to adopt the original
political decision, with a revised section on compliance. The
political decision – or "Bonn Agreements" – was formally adopted by
the COP on 25 July.
Although draft decisions were approved on several
key issues, delegates were unable to remove all brackets in text on
the mechanisms, compliance and LULUCF. Since not all texts in the
"package" of decisions were completed, all draft decisions were
forwarded to COP-7.
COP-7: Delegates met for COP-7 and the
fifteenth sessions of the UNFCCC’s subsidiary bodies in Marrakesh,
Morocco, from 29 October - 10 November 2001. The main goal was to
complete tasks left unfinished at COP-6 Parts I and II, thereby
bringing to a close three years of negotiations. The Bonn Agreements
served as the basis for delegates striving to finish their work.
From 30 October to 6 November delegates met in
negotiating groups, closed drafting groups and informal
consultations in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues relating
to the mechanisms, compliance, accounting, reporting and review
under Articles 5, 7and 8, and LULUCF. Ongoing negotiations were also
held on draft COP decisions relating to LDCs, the Consultative Group
of Experts on non-Annex I National Communications (CGE), and input
to the WSSD.
On Wednesday, 7 November, COP-7's high-level
segment began, with ministers and senior officials seeking to bring
negotiations to a successful conclusion. After protracted bilateral
and multilateral talks, a package deal on LULUCF, mechanisms,
Protocol Articles 5, 7 and 8, and input to the WSSD was proposed on
Thursday evening, 8 November. Although the deal was accepted by most
regional groups, including the G-77/China and the EU, the Umbrella
Group (a loose alliance of Annex I Parties that includes Canada,
Australia, Japan, the Russian Federation, and New Zealand) did not
join the consensus, with key areas of dispute including eligibility
requirements and bankability under the mechanisms. However,
following extensive negotiations, a package deal was agreed, with
key features including consideration of LULUCF Principles and
limited banking of units generated by sinks under the CDM.
PREPARATIONS FOR SB-16: A series of workshops
that have taken place since COP-7 will provide participants with
input for discussions at SB-16. In April, workshops were held on:
methodologies for technology needs assessments; technology
information; the revision of the guidelines for non-Annex I national
communications; the CGE; the terms of reference and an agenda for
work related to definitions and modalities for including
afforestation and reforestation activities under Article 12 in the
first commitment period; the IPCC TAR; and the elaboration of draft
technical guidance on methodologies for adjustments under Protocol
Article 5.2 (adjustments). In May, workshops were held on the status
of models designed to assess the adverse effects of climate change
and impacts of response measures, and on cleaner or less greenhouse
gas-emitting energy. Two additional workshops on developing a work
programme on activities related to UNFCCC Article 6 (education,
training and public awareness), and on the draft revised uniform
reporting format for activities implemented jointly, were held
immediately prior to SB-16, along with consultations on registries.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: Since COP-7, 33
additional Parties have ratified the Protocol. This includes Japan,
and the fifteen member States of the European Union, which delivered
their instruments of ratification to the UN on 31 May. Several other
Parties have also begun the process of ratification and are expected
to complete this procedure by the start of the WSSD in August.
On 17 January, Joke Waller-Hunter (the
Netherlands) was named the new Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.
SB-16 marks her first major UNFCCC meeting in this role. During the
Nineteenth Session of the IPCC held in April, Rajendra K. Pachauri
(India) was named the new Chair of the IPCC.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
SBSTA: SB-16 is expected to begin at 10:00 am
with an opening session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and
Technological Advice (note that the Subsidiary Body for
Implementation does not meet until 10 June). In the morning, SBSTA
is scheduled to consider organizational matters, the TAR, and
various methodological issues. In the afternoon, it is likely to
discuss technology transfer, the relationship between efforts to
protect the ozone layer and the climate system, and policies and
INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS: Informal
consultations are likely late in the afternoon. Please check the
television monitors for further details.