International climate talks get underway

Government representatives gather in Bonn to debate implementation of the Kyoto protocol

Representatives of world governments have gathered in Bonn for two weeks of talks on implementing the 1997 Kyoto climate change protocol. High-profile developments are not expected during the session, which is preparing the way for this autumn's full meeting of parties to the 1992 international climate change convention.

Nevertheless, issues of key interest to the EU are on the agenda, including rules on use of "flexibility mechanisms" such as greenhouse gas trading, definitions of carbon "sink" activities that could be offset against emissions, and mechanisms for ensuring compliance with the protocol's rules. Final resolution of many of the issues under discussion is not due until the next-but-one meeting of parties to the climate convention in late 2000.

The EU's recently finalised proposal to allow industrialised countries to meet no more than 50% of their greenhouse gas reduction commitments through the use of flexibility mechanisms (ENDS Daily 10 May) is certain to be discussed during the talks. On its formal adoption, the plan was immediately criticised by the USA and Australia, which want to avoid limits on the use of trading and the other mechanisms (ENDS Daily 19 May).

Environmental NGOs have made the running in early news filtering out of Bonn. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned yesterday that Russia might be preparing to open a "futures market" for its "excess allocation" of carbon dioxide emissions and called for emissions trading not to begin under Kyoto until 2008. Meanwhile, Climate Network Europe criticised the EU's flexibility mechanisms cap proposal, which it claimed would actually allow the EU to meet up to 65% of its commitments through trading, rather than the 50% limit suggested by the EU itself.

Follow Up:
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, tel: +49 228 815 5000. References: Official information on the Bonn meeting; Daily news on the meeting by Earth Negotiations Bulletin; NGO coverage of the session in ECO Newsletter (e-mail for information).

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