Countries struggle toward global climate deal

Two weeks of international talks end in Lyon, key political issues remain unresolved

Two-weeks of international talks aimed at developing detailed rules for the 1997 Kyoto climate protocol ended today in Lyon, France, with no breakthroughs reported on the key political issues that continue to divide countries. Whether even last minute ministerial negotiations now due to take place in November in the Hague will succeed in overcoming the obstacles remains unclear. Here are the main Kyoto protocol-related issues that were debated in Lyon:

* The CDM, or clean development mechanism for transferring technology to developing countries: The focus of discussion is which technologies will be eligible under the CDM. Some countries want to limit eligibility to a "positive list" of renewable energy and demand-side technologies. The EU is broadly supportive of an early start for the scheme, but even it is divided over whether nuclear should be excluded.

* Land-use change and forestry sinks: At issue is the accountability of practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While urging caution over the inclusion of sinks in the protocol, the EU is again split. The Lyon-conference developed draft texts on the relevant articles, but they still contain numerous "square brackets," denoting disputed options. Environmental NGOs have criticised proposals by the USA and other countries, that they say would enable emissions credits to be sought for land practices that have been conducted for many years.

* Compliance: Likewise, the key question of what should happen if a country fails to comply with Kyoto protocol rules or its own commitments. Delegations agreed on a framework containing both enforcement and facilitative elements, and that failures to meet gas reduction commitments should be dealt with through the former. However, Russia, Japan and Australia continued to oppose so-called "binding consequences" for non-compliance.

* Joint implementation projects between industrialised countries: Parties failed to agree on a proposed "positive list" of sustainable projects. Meanwhile, it emerged that Russia, where many JI projects could be sited, has failed to supply required annual reports since 1997. Environmentalists estimate that official figures in fact overestimate by a factor of 40 the potential carbon emissions cuts from projects supposedly under way.

* Emission trading: After much bickering, the EU and the USA are reported to have agreed on eligibility criteria for engaging in an international trading system. There is still no progress on the EU's demand that access to emissions trading and the other "flexible mechanisms" should be legally capped.

Follow Up:
UN climate change convention secretariat, +49 228 815 1000. See also the official Lyon conference pages, and detailed coverage from Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

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