Bonn climate talks focus on emissions trading

First proposals for trading rules submitted; NGOs say negotiations losing momentum

Government officials have begun preparatory talks on rules for international greenhouse gas emission trading and other mechanisms to implement the global climate change protocol adopted in Kyoto last December.

During two weeks' of meetings in Bonn which ended on Friday, a number of parties tabled proposals and questions on the use of flexible mechanisms such as emission trading, joint implementation and the "clean development mechanism".

No substantive agreements were reached during the talks and environmental NGOs complain of a loss of momentum, which they blame in part on governments' failure in Kyoto to set a deadline for agreement of the detailed legal framework for flexible mechanisms and other provisions.

Governments are due to discuss progress at the next meeting of parties to the UN climate change convention in Buenos Aires in November. No further formal negotiating sessions are scheduled before then. But according to a UN spokesperson, governments will continue talks at bilateral meetings and regional summits and are expected to set a deadline for drawing up the protocol's rules by November.

The EU and Canada both submitted proposals for rules on emissions trading. Canada's discussion paper represented the views of Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Russia and the USA. The two blocs remain divided on fundamental issues such as whether there should be a cap on how much flexible mechanisms can contribute to each country's emission reduction target. The USA and Norway specifically insisted that no cap should be imposed.

Other differences between the EU and Canadian proposals relate to the rules proposed on compliance mechanisms, transparency, liability and reporting. The EU, together with Switzerland and several central and eastern European countries, also submitted a paper on principles for joint implementation.

Developing countries, anxious to ensure that flexible mechanisms are not used as loopholes by industrialised countries to avoid cutting their domestic emissions, called on them to answer fundamental questions about how they would be applied.

Another key issue in Bonn was the possibility of developing countries taking on voluntary commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Argentina, as host of the next conference of parties, has put this on the agenda for November. Argentina is reported to have struck a deal with the US government to promote this approach, though most developing countries continue to oppose it. The EU is keen for developing countries to take on commitments, but feels this should be addressed as part of an overall review of all countries' commitments.

Governments also asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the body of scientists whose work underpins the convention - to report on how governments should claim credits for planting or maintaining forests as carbon sinks.

Follow Up:
UN climate change secretariat, tel: +49 228 815 1000.

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