Dutch environment minister Jan Pronk has issued what could become the basis for world agreement - though without America at least - on how to implement the UN Kyoto climate protocol.
In the first of two major advances, the minister's team has replaced hundreds of contested options denoted by "square brackets" with a single, coherent proposal. Mr Pronk has also offered new political concessions to Japan and central and eastern European (CEE) countries that might persuade them to follow the EU's lead and ratify without the USA.
Minister Pronk's paper follows months of preparation after talks meant to finalise the Kyoto protocol collapsed in the Netherlands last Autumn, including a high-level session this spring (EED 23/04/01). More negotiations will take place at the end of this month before the full "COP6" conference is resumed in Bonn from mid-July.
Little reaction has yet emerged from world governments due to the complexity of the 178-pages of legalistic text. But an informed EU source told ENDS Daily that it was a "tremendous achievement" for Mr Pronk to have produced a single, internally consistent text without square brackets. "No one expected so much progress," the official said.
Key political elements in the text, according to a spokesperson for Mr Pronk and the EU source, are concessions to Japan regarding carbon sinks and to Russia and central and eastern European countries regarding payments into a proposed "adaptation fund".
Under a new formula, Japan would have extra ability to count carbon absorption by forestry sinks against its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Japan's relatively low potential to exploit sinks compared with larger, less densely populated regions, has been one of its major objections to previous proposals.
The new proposal regarding countries in transition from Communism to a market economy essentially concerns money. All will have to pay into the protocol's adaptation fund, but an only half the rate of other "annex 1" industrialised countries.
Lurking behind Mr Pronk's proposals is the threat to Kyoto posed by America's rejection of the protocol. For it to enter into force, annex 1 countries that emitted 55% of industrialised countries' 1990 carbon dioxide emissions must ratify. The EU alone cannot achieve this. The barrier can be breached, however, if both Japan and Russia and the CEE countries are persuaded to join in.
Tough talking will undoubtedly continue on these and tens of other issues, with a particular flash-point likely to be continuing developing country concerns over the limited scale of financial assistance being offered by the industrialised world.
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