Nations tiptoe towards global climate deal

Fortnight of talks ends with reaffirmed political commitment to agree Kyoto protocol rules in 2000

The fifth conference of parties (COP) to the UN climate change convention ended in Bonn, Germany, today, with renewed political optimism that a firm deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions can be struck. In a statement released this afternoon, the EU declared itself "satisfied" with the meeting, which it said had "established a firm basis for future political decisions".

The political highlight of the two-week session was agreement to hold the sixth conference, or COP-6, next November in the Hague, the Netherlands, rather than sometime in 2001. The deal overcame objections from the USA, which had wanted to avoid the potentially explosive event taking place just before its presidential elections.

Numerous countries also stated their determination to achieve a final deal at COP-6 on rules for the Kyoto protocol on limiting emissions. This timetable had begun to look in doubt in the run-up to the Bonn meeting despite having been agreed in principle at COP-4 in 1998 (ENDS Daily 16 November 1998). A reinforced series of negotiations leading up to COP-6 is now in prospect.

Political progress was also made on the key issue of ratifying the protocol. The EU committed to ratify by April 2002. This would coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Rio "earth summit" at which the climate change convention was first agreed. Japan made more nuanced moves towards the same end.

Detailed negotiations on the Kyoto protocol moved at a glacial pace by comparison. In part this was pre-programmed by the decision at COP-4 to aim for a final agreement after two years of talks. In addition, oil producing states led by Saudi Arabia made what environmental groups have described as "childish" or "wantonly obstructive" attempts to prevent progress. These included failing to attend meetings and suddenly being unable to read English-language texts.

Draft negotiating texts for COP-6 were agreed among 22 decisions developed by the convention's subsidiary bodies and approved by the whole conference. However, virtually all progress centred on how to take forward future discussions.

Decisions ratified by the conference focus on: rules for industrialised countries to report emissions in national communications; the contentious issue of land-use and emissions sinks; rules and principles for the Kyoto flexible mechanisms (emissions trading, joint implementation and the clean development mechanism); how to allocate emissions of international transport (or bunker) fuels; a compliance regime and penalties for the protocol; and "capacity building" support for developing countries.

Follow Up:
UN framework convention on climate change, tel: +49 228 815 1000. References: Extensive information on COP-5 is available on the internet, including video clips from the meeting, via the UNFCCC web site, from Earth Negotiations Bulletin and from Eco Newsletter.

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