Earth Negotiations Bulletin
Briefing Note
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Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

Monday, 23 April 2001

Briefing note on the informal high-level consultations on Climate Change held by the President of COP-6

 Prepared by Hernan LOPEZ and Kimo GOREE

Editors Note: This briefing note was prepared following both conversations with participants and comments by Jan Pronk at the press briefing. Our information is only as good as the veracity and memory of our informants.


High-level informal consultations on climate change were held from 20-21 April 2001 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. They were held as a parallel but separate event of the High-Level segment of the ninth meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-9).

The consultations started on Friday, 20 April, with an evening buffet, and continued on Saturday, 21 April, from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. A press conference was held by the President of COP-6 Jan Pronk at the end of the consultations at 6 pm.


The meeting was convened by the President of COP-6, Jan Pronk (The Netherlands), and the UNFCCC Secretariat, and gathered more than 40 Ministers of the Environment, high-level officials and observers from 40 to 50 countries, non-governmental and other organizations, and the co-chairs of the various contact groups of the COP as resource persons. The list of countries represented included inter alia: Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, European Commission, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United States of America, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.

Introductory remarks

During the buffet on Friday evening, participants listened to welcoming words by the President of COP-6, Jan Pronk, who explained that the informal consultations were aimed to advance political preparations before COP-6 resumed session.  He explained that upon the receipt of many written submissions by Parties to the UNFCCC Secretariat after COP-6, as well as a large number of bilateral consultations, he had prepared a brief paper outlining some potential avenues of progress on key political questions, which must be resolved at COP-6 resumed session. He said that consultations should help to provide a better sense of where possible solutions lie and how to achieve agreement on the issues included in the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. Discussions would also provide proposals on substance and on how to how to proceed until COP-6 resumed session.

Participants listened to Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Director of the UNFCCC Secretariat, who, according to participants present in the room, said the process of negotiations is in crisis for the first time in ten years as a result of the US declaration in late March that the Kyoto Protocol was dead. He said that this crisis has urged countries to act and added that the full attendance at the consultations showed the will of countries to find convergence at the end of the road. He signaled that the Kyoto protocol continued to represent the way forward in this situation of uncertainty.

Bob Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), provided participants with recent scientific findings of the IPCC Working Group conclusions that show changes in climate occurring as a result of human activities, and called on countries to act now.


Consultations started at 9:30 in the morning of Saturday, 21 April. COP-6 President Jan Pronk explained that ministers were convened to discuss his proposal in order to draft a new text that reflects a common denominator basis for a compromise, and to comment on the US decision. The consultations focused on three main questions that underlined the discussions: the belief that the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol provide the framework of the international negotiations to address climate change; the value of the new President’s proposal as contributing to the success of the negotiations; and the way forward in the negotiations after the US declared its position against the Protocol.

On the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol as the framework of the international negotiations to address climate change, all countries supported the UNFCCC as the framework for international negotiations. All countries but one supported the Kyoto Protocol. The US said it still believes in the UNFCCC as the framework for its voluntary effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but opposes the Protocol and noted that the new administration is engaged in a policy review at the cabinet level on this matter, and will present the results at COP-6 resumed session in Bonn. The participant from the US said this policy review involves consideration of working in a different track to the Protocol, specifically regarding the issue of developing countries involvement, the economic costs for the US economy and some aspects of the IPCC scientific findings such as the duration and location of climate change consequences.

In general, all countries urged the new US administration to come back to negotiations of the Protocol, arguing many reasons including: the US is the largest emitter of GHGs in the world; the science is straightforward; and, that there is now proof that the economic costs of implementing actions to combat climate change are not as high as expected. The G-77/China delivered a statement supporting both the UNFCCC and the Protocol as the valid framework and said the Protocol should not be renegotiated. Sources present in the room said the G-77/China had suggested using middle ground language, cautioned against confronting the US, and had supported accommodating possible agreement among different groups. They said the UK minister had delivered a speech that raised applause from the audience. In this speech, he said that the US should not use the economic costs of implementing the Protocol as an argument to oppose it since it is now demonstrated that the cost of no action would be higher. He also said, in line with other country statements on juridical aspects of the US decision, that the US had signed the UNFCCC and the Protocol as a state and not as a government. States are entities that transcend governments, and whichever party is in charge of the new administration should not ignore their commitments. Germany, in line with the UK, added that both countries had long demonstrated that the economic costs of implementing the Protocol would not be as high as predicted. He said that if there would be costs, these would be minimal and should be assumed now, because they would be higher later and include not only economic but also social costs. He explained that both Germany and the UK worked together with their business sectors to adopt some voluntary actions to reduce emissions, showing that the implementation of the Protocol would not be too costly.

The EU supported the implementation of the Protocol, arguing that it provides the only international instrument and political basis for addressing climate change. The EU called on Parties to be flexible in working out agreements over the coming months and stressed some of its positions, including inter alia, the provision of substantial resources to developing countries for the implementation of the Convention and the Protocol. The EU also stressed that the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol must lead to significant, real domestic reductions in Annex I countries, although also signaling a willingness to discuss supplementarity. On sinks, the EU recalled their concerns about scale, uncertainty and risks, although welcoming the structure suggested by the President’s paper regarding potential volumes. The EU also supported the suggestions made by President Pronk on compliance regarding consequences.

Japan supported the implementation of the Protocol, arguing that the international community could not disregard 10 years of negotiations. The SIDS group and Mexico suggested considering the issue of adaptation and holding a workshop of experts before COP-6 resumed session. Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand among others supported the implementation of the Protocol, reflecting an overall conciliatory spirit in their statements.

In the corridors, sources from two developing countries expressed doubt that the US cabinet-level policy review would result in the return of the US to the process and ratification of the protocol. They agreed that it is obvious that the new US administration will not make any commitment to international efforts on climate change.

On the value of the new President’s proposal as contributing to the success of the Protocol negotiations, Parties noted that Pronk’s paper had problems in the areas of process, substance and ownerships. The G-77/China recognized progress in areas such as financial mechanisms, although arguing that the group’s position regarding the principles and concepts of the UNFCCC and the Protocol had been downplayed or neglected. The group stated that their position on various issues that had been presented at COP-6 in The Hague was still valid.

The OPEC countries accepted Pronk’s proposal in general but disputed some aspects such as sinks. Canada said Pronk�s paper demonstrates that the middle ground, which must lie between countries� positions, is quite elusive and noted the need to find a more balanced approach. Canada suggested working on the basis of four issues as outlined in the original version of Pronk�s paper, including: financial support for developing countries and their role in the Protocol; effective and accessible market mechanisms; fair and realistic treatment of agriculture and forest sinks; and, a compliance regime. He explained that this new paper does not reflect the three sections of the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR), briefly introduced to ministers during the opening buffet on Friday night.

President Pronk explained that this new proposal was drafted upon the reception of many written submissions by countries, as well as a large number of bilateral consultations after COP-6. He added that the new paper includes the US former administration�s position on many of the issues and recalled that this approach is valid since the climate change factors remain the same despite the new administration.

President Pronk promised participants that he will deliver a new text without brackets in early June, which could form the basis for negotiations at COP-6 resumed session in July. He also announced that the government of The Netherlands would contribute towards a meeting of the G-77/China by the end of June to enable the analysis of his proposal. President Pronk encouraged other parties to engage in discussions that would include their ministries of foreign affairs due to the fact that this is a process that needs a political solution.

On the way forward in the negotiations after the US declared its position against the Protocol, the majority of countries believed that negotiations should continue to reach consensus even with the US departing from the process. According to President Pronk, some countries expressed doubts whether it would be possible to reach agreement at COP-6 resumed session in Bonn without the US, although they said they had compromised in their work towards consensus. He said that other countries found it highly desirable that the US stays in the process. President Pronk said that the US reaffirmed it is still part of the UNFCCC � which provides the basis for voluntary actions, but that this would not be enough to reach consensus with other countries. He said the EU believes it is necessary to continue work on achieving the target of Protocol ratification in 2002.

President Pronk said the US promised to attend COP-6 resumed session, where they would deliver the results of their cabinet-level policy review.


President Pronk said that the consultations did not deliver great substantial achievements although he considered �the family is still together.� Using the phrase used by the US last March that the Protocol �was dead,� he said that after the consultations the Protocol is not completely healthy but is recovering.

He said that there is always flexibility and some room for negotiation but stressed that some aspects of the Protocol could not be negotiated again, including that it is a binding legal instrument that enacts timeframes and targets, and principles that embrace some exceptions for developing countries.

According to sources present at the meeting, delegates and ministers delivered political statements in a conciliatory atmosphere. However, there was a sense of lack of progress in the room and the corridors while the meeting was coming to an end. While there was no confrontation this time, there was a sense that the process is stalled and not moving along as it should.

Next steps

Further informal consultations will likely to be held on the occasion of the Diplomatic Conference for the signing of the POPs Convention, which is scheduled to take place from 21-23 May 2001, in Stockholm, Sweden. Pronk promised these consultations would focus on his new proposal and be more comprehensive and take into account all the countries that are Parties to the process, including the US.

Pronk said that these informal consultations could be limited to a reduced group of experts that could help overcome the differences on issues and outstanding areas that caused the breakdown of talks at COP-6, and to advance consensus. The G-77/China however, called for an �open-ended group� type of consultations conducted in a transparent manner.

The consultations closed at 4:30 pm on Saturday, April 21, 2001.


� IISD 2001


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