Global climate talks on the slow burner

Kyoto protocol implementation issues inch forward at meeting of convention bodies

Global talks on implementing the Kyoto climate change protocol moved slowly forwards during a two-week meeting in Bonn, which ended on Friday (ENDS Daily 1 June). The meeting closed with agreement to submit a series of draft texts to the next conference of parties to the UN climate change convention, due to be held in October. Nevertheless, most major decisions remain on track to be made finally only at the following conference in late 2000.

A controversial EU proposal to force industrialised countries to make domestic emissions cuts by limiting their use of the so-called flexible mechanisms was opposed by the "Umbrella group," comprising the USA, Australia and other like-minded countries. However, the issue did not dominate the meeting, with EU negotiators apparently happy to simply let the plan sit on the table, leaving serious debate over it for a later date.

Going in to the session, the convention secretariat provided a synthesis of national positions on rules for the flexibility mechanisms. Developing countries initially demanded more time to review the information, but by the end of the meeting it was agreed that the secretariat should prepare a second synthesis for submission to the fifth meeting of parties to the climate convention, to be held in October.

Though strongly in favour of the principle of capping countries' use of emissions trading and other flexible mechanisms, European NGOs refused to endorse the EU's proposal at the meeting, claiming that it was too weak. "To have a proposal that is so 'bendable' and can mean anything to anyone is unacceptable," according to Delia Villagrassa of Climate Network Europe. "The plan just shows to the rest of the world how divided the EU is on this issue," she said.

Other issues on which officials made progress during the talks include approaches to ensuring compliance with Kyoto protocol rules, many of which have themselves still to be settled. Compliance is another topic that has been championed by the EU, which left the talks reasonably happy with the progress made, according to European Commission officials. In particular, there will now be a international workshop on protocol compliance issues before October's conference of the parties.

Draft decisions to be submitted in October also focus on the role of land-use and forestry in calculating emissions and sinks of greenhouse gases, the inclusion of bunker fuels in the protocol and adverse impacts due to measures taken to address climate change. Another is the pilot phase of "joint implementation" - one of the flexible mechanisms under which industrialised countries could claim emissions credits from greenhouse gas reduction projects carried out in other industrialised countries.

Follow Up:
UNFCCC, tel: +49 228 815 5000. References: For a detailed review of events at the Bonn meetings, see Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

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