Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development
Vol. 12 No. 77
Tuesday, June 02 1998
MEETINGS OF THE SUBSIDIARY BODIES OF THE UN FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON
CLIMATE CHANGE 2 - 12 June 1998
The subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(FCCC) will meet from 2-12 June 1998 in Bonn, Germany. This is the first meeting since the
adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at the Third Conference of the Parties (COP-3) in December
1997. Both the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Assistance (SBSTA) and the
Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) will address aspects of national communications
and mechanisms for cooperative implementation, such as the clean development mechanism,
emissions trading and "joint implementation" (this term is used in the agenda
SBSTA will also discuss, inter alia, cooperation with international organizations and
methodological issues, such as emissions inventories and land use and forestry. SBI will
address the financial mechanism, the second review of the adequacy of commitments and
arrangements for COP-4. The Ad Hoc Group on Article 13 (AG13) will continue discussions on
functions and procedures for a multilateral consultative process.
PROTOCOL SIGNATURES: On 16 March, the Kyoto Protocol officially opened for signature at
UN headquarters and was signed by Argentina, Switzerland, the Maldives, Samoa, and Antigua
and Barbuda. At the signing ceremony, FCCC Executive Secretary Michael Zammit Cutajar said
he looked forward to the Protocol's entry into force very early in the next century and to
a first review of its contents soon after. The first benchmark will be in 2005, when
Parties must demonstrate progress in meeting the agreed emissions targets and start work
on defining targets for the period after 2012.
On the occasion of the sixth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development
(CSD-6), Japan signed the Protocol on 29 April, followed on 30 April by the 15 members of
the EU, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Norway and Monaco. New Zealand signed on 25 May. On 29
May, China became the thirty-seventh country to sign. Fifty-five countries representing 55
percent of 1990 global carbon dioxide emissions must ratify the Protocol before it enters
into force. No country has yet ratified the treaty.
FORMAL AND INFORMAL MEETINGS: The period following COP-3 witnessed a flurry of
meetings, statements and events as countries embarked on the task of developing initial
plans for implementation, addressing domestic reactions and developing processes to
further define the terms of the Kyoto Protocol.
Implementation of the Protocol was addressed at a number of high-level meetings. On 17
May, the final communiqué of the G8 meeting in Birmingham, UK, welcomed the recent
signature of the Protocol by some G8 countries and confirmed the intention of the rest to
sign it within the next year. The leaders agreed to, inter alia: undertake domestic action
to reduce emissions; develop flexible mechanisms; and draw up rules to ensure a verifiable
trading system and an effective compliance regime. OECD Environment Ministers agreed on 3
April that OECD members would give a high priority to ratifying and implementing the
Protocol. On 1 April, G8 Energy Ministers met in Moscow and signed a communiqué on
cooperation in the energy sector that included a call to give special attention to the
Kyoto Protocol. In a joint statement issued at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, the
presidents of the US and Chile, inter alia: stressed that the Protocol's market mechanisms
would mobilize private sector resources; recognized the potential of the Clean Development
Mechanism; and noted that developing countries should participate meaningfully in efforts
to address climate change by, for example, taking on emissions targets.
On 30 May, the US, France, Britain and others began discussions in Paris on holding one
or more international conferences to persuade India and Pakistan to renounce further
nuclear testing in return for help from the industrial world in developing civilian
nuclear power centers. French President Chirac also noted the threat of a "pollution
bomb" if these and other Asian countries do not switch to clean energy sources,
"a principal issue of the Kyoto conference on global warming last December." He
said imposing sanctions on India and Pakistan would make it more difficult for them to
Regional conferences in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America were organized
to serve as fora for presentation of the methodological framework, results and experience
of national studies, and their relevance and replicability in the region. A conference on
Climate Change Mitigation in Africa was held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from 18-20 May
1998. Twenty-four African countries were represented at the conference as well as
representatives from the UNEP Centre Denmark, Danida, GTZ, UNDP and UNEP. The Conference
was held as part of the final stage of the UNEP/GEF project "Economics of Climate
Change Limitation," ran in parallel with the conference for Latin America held in
Quito, Ecuador from 21 - 22 May.
At other meetings, the Protocol's flexibility mechanisms, particularly emissions
trading, drew considerable attention. At the first GEF Assembly on 2 April, the World
Bank's managing director of operations said the Bank plans to set up a pilot project to
help countries trade their carbon dioxide emissions allowances. The project, called the
Carbon Investment Fund, would help buyers and sellers trade their allowed emissions. He
said the bank might be able to withdraw from the project eventually and let the private
sector take it over and widen its scale.
A meeting on emissions trading, sponsored by the Columbia Earth Institute, UNDP,
UNESCO, UNIDO and UNEP Organizing Committee, was held from 24-26 April in New York.
Participants discussed several topics including the quantity and price of emissions
permits, the necessity of private-sector participation, and the failure of past efforts to
produce incentives for technology transfer. Panel discussions elaborated on issues such as
opposition to the Kyoto Protocol by both the private sector and developing countries due
to fear of negative economic impacts and achieving mitigation through interaction between
developing countries and the private sector.
UNCTAD held an expert group meeting on emissions trading in London on 12 May. Some
participants noted that attitudes toward the concept of trading were apparently shifting
and said trading provides both efficiency and flexibility in meeting established targets
and timetables, as well as incentives for the development of new technologies. Others,
however, expressed concern about lack of interest in buying and selling something as
diffuse and unclear as the right to emit carbon dioxide. Environmental NGOs were concerned
that trading will allow wealthy countries to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide that has
not been emitted by Russia due to its economic crisis.
Some countries and businesses have taken initial actions under the flexibility
mechanisms. On 5 March, Suncor Energy Inc. (Canada) and Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation
(US), announced a greenhouse gas emissions trade that the two companies hoped would be a
first step towards the creation of a global market and an international trading system. On
11 March, a climate project in Bolivia was finalized, which participants hoped would
become an example of how forest protection projects can be used to offset emissions. As
part of the project, the Bolivian government has added 2.1 million acres of tropical
forests to the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, essentially doubling its size. By
investing in the protection of this area, three U.S. corporations, American Electric
Power, BP America and PacifiCorp, and the Bolivian government will receive carbon offset
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, in their summit
on 19 April in Kawana, agreed to begin feasibility studies on twenty promising joint
implementation projects to improve energy efficiency at Russian plants and reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and gain offsets against their own emissions. The two leaders
also agreed to expand cooperation in energy to the field of nuclear technology.
OTHER EVENTS: Several other events and meetings may likely influence the negotiations
in Bonn. Newspaper accounts reported that European ministers, when signing the Protocol,
expressed strong concern that the US, Japan and Russia were violating the spirit of the
agreement by pursuing trading rather than domestic reductions. The UK noted that domestic
actions must be the main means of achieving reductions and said the EU would propose to
limit the amount of emissions reductions that can be achieved through flexible mechanisms.
He said developed countries need to consider ways for engaging developing countries in the
process and supported a review of the commitments of all Parties rather than a pursuit of
voluntary reduction targets. Following high-level consultations on 22 May, Japan and the
EU publicly agreed to pool efforts to convince the US to sign the Protocol and encourage
developing countries to reduce emissions.
In the US, the Clinton administration proposed domestic action on the Protocol, but not
without generating considerable political resistance. On 29 January, US President Clinton
announced a five-year, $6.3 billion package of tax incentives and research to spur
development of fuel-efficient automobiles and other energy-saving technologies. However,
some members of the Congress have sought to block the administration from spending money
on programs to reduce carbon emissions unless the Senate ratifies the Protocol. They
characterized the administration's proposal as a "back door" way of implementing
the Protocol without a Senate vote. On 22 May, US lawmakers sought to exempt US military
operations from the Protocol by proposing an amendment to next year's military
authorization bill that "prohibits the restriction of armed forces under the Kyoto
Japan proposed domestic legislation that provides a basic framework for emission
reductions by requiring both the central and prefectural governments to draw up plans to
reduce emissions and make frequent progress reports. It does not require industries to
disclose emission levels or to draw up reduction plans. The preliminary draft of the bill,
which would have imposed stricter measures on industry, including mandatory reporting of
emission reduction plans, was revised after it met resistance from the Ministry of
International Trade and Industry. Environment agency officials said the significance of
the legislation lies in its suggestion that companies should adopt "self-regulatory
measures." Critics, however, said the proposal lacks measures necessary to ensure
compliance by industry.
NGOs participating in the process also underwent changes. A new industry NGO, the Pew
Center on Climate Change, was launched and includes corporate members from aerospace, auto
and appliance manufacturers as well as several energy companies. Shell Oil announced its
withdrawl from the Global Climate Coalition following irreconcilable differences over the
Protocol. The US Chamber of Commerce launched an Internet campaign to disseminate
information from foreign policy experts to the public in order to build opposition to the
Kyoto Protocol, which it characterized as a threat to US security and sovereignty.
Scientists from the US and the UK announced that 1997 was the warmest year on record
and that nine of the last eleven years were among the warmest periods ever recorded.
Satellite images also confirmed that a section of an Antarctic ice shelf had broken away
from the Larsen Ice Shelf. However, newspaper accounts reported that an informal group of
industrialists had drafted a proposal to convince the public that the FCCC is based on
unsound science. They would seek to recruit scientists who share their views on the
science of climate change to help convince the public that the risk of global warming is
too uncertain to justify emission controls.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
SBI: SBI will meet at 10:00 am in the Maritim Room.
SBSTA: SBSTA will meet at 11:00 am in the Beethoven Room.
PLENARY: Plenary will meet at 2:30 pm in the Maritim Room.