Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 12 No. 201
Wednesday, 23 October 2002
EIGHTH CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE UN
FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
23 OCTOBER TO 1 NOVEMBER 2002
The Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP-8) to
the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
and the Seventeenth Sessions of the COP’s Subsidiary Body for
Implementation (SBI) and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and
Technological Advice (SBSTA) open today at the Vigyan Bhawan
Conference Centre in New Delhi, India. Around 3,000 participants are
expected to attend. This is the first COP since November 2001, when
delegates completed three years of negotiations on the operational
details of the Kyoto Protocol and agreed the Marrakesh Accords.
Among other things, Parties will take up:
national communications from Annex I and non-Annex I Parties, and
their guidelines, and the new mandate and terms of reference of the
Consultative Group of Experts on non-Annex I National Communications
(CGE); the financial mechanism; capacity-building; implementation of
UNFCCC Article 4.8 and 4.9 (adverse effects); the Third Assessment
Report (TAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);
"good practices" in policies and measures (P&Ms); research and
systematic observation (RSO); cooperation with relevant
international organizations; UNFCCC Article 6 (education, training
and public awareness); development and transfer of technology; and
issues relating to hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.
Parties will also address methodological issues,
including: guidelines under Protocol Articles 5 (methodological
issues), 7 (communication of information) and 8 (review of
information); guidelines on reporting and review of Annex I
greenhouse gas inventories; activities implemented jointly (AIJ);
land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF); and scientific and
methodological assessment of contributions to climate change.
Other issues to be discussed include: cleaner or
less greenhouse gas-emitting energy; the implementation of Protocol
Article 2.3 (adverse effects of P&Ms); special circumstances of
Croatia under UNFCCC Article 4.6 (flexibility for countries with
economies in transition); the Croatian proposal on forest management
activities under Protocol Article 3.4 (additional activities); a
Canadian proposal on modalities for the accounting of assigned
amounts under Protocol Article 7.4 (registries) in relation to
cleaner energy exports; the request from a group of countries of
Central Asia and the Caucasus, Albania and the Republic of Moldova (CACAM)
for the clarification of the term "developing countries" in the
context of UNFCCC decisions; review of the adequacy of commitments
under the UNFCCC; and a series of administrative and organizational
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UNFCCC AND THE KYOTO
Climate change is considered one of the most
serious threats to the world's environment, with negative impacts
expected on human health, food security, economic activity, water
and other natural resources, and physical infrastructure. Global
climate varies naturally, but scientists agree that rising
concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the
Earth’s atmosphere are leading to a change in the climate. According
to the IPCC, the effects of climate change have already been
observed. Despite some lingering uncertainties, a majority of
scientists believe that precautionary and prompt action is
The international political response to climate
change began with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Adopted in 1992, the UNFCCC sets out a framework for action aimed at
stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid
"dangerous interference" with the climate system. The greenhouse
gases to be limited include methane, nitrous oxide, and, in
particular, carbon dioxide. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21
March 1994. It now has 186 Parties.
THE KYOTO PROTOCOL: In 1995, the first
meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-1) established the
Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate, whose task was to reach
agreement on strengthening efforts to combat climate change.
Following intense negotiations culminating at COP-3 in Kyoto, Japan,
in December 1997, delegates agreed to a Protocol to the UNFCCC that
commits developed countries and countries making the transition to a
market economy to achieve quantified emission reduction targets.
These countries, known under the UNFCCC as Annex I Parties,
committed themselves to reducing their overall emissions of six
greenhouse gases by at least 5% below 1990 levels over the period
2008 and 2012 (the first commitment period), with specific targets
varying from country to country. The Protocol also established three
mechanisms to assist Annex I Parties in meeting their national
targets cost-effectively – an emissions trading system, joint
implementation (JI) of emissions-reduction projects between Annex I
Parties, and a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to encourage
projects in non-Annex I (developing country) Parties.
It was left for subsequent meetings to decide on
most of the rules and operational details that determine how these
cuts in emissions will be achieved and how countries' efforts will
be measured and assessed. To enter into force, the Protocol must be
ratified by 55 Parties to the UNFCCC, including Annex I Parties
representing at least 55% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for
1990. To date, 96 Parties have ratified the Protocol, including 26
Annex I Parties, representing a total of 37.4% of the emissions.
THE BUENOS AIRES PLAN OF ACTION: At COP-4,
which met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 1998, Parties set
a schedule for reaching agreement on the operational details of the
Protocol and for strengthening implementation of the UNFCCC itself.
In a decision known as the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA),
delegates agreed that the deadline for reaching agreement should be
COP-6. Critical Protocol-related issues needing resolution included
rules relating to the mechanisms, a regime for assessing Parties'
compliance, and accounting methods for national emissions and
emissions reductions. Rules on crediting countries for carbon sinks
were also to be addressed. Issues under the UNFCCC requiring
resolution included questions of capacity building, the development
and transfer of technology, and assistance to those developing
countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate
change or to actions taken by industrialized countries to combat
COP-6 PART I: COP-6 and the resumed
thirteenth sessions of the UNFCCC's subsidiary bodies were held in
The Hague, the Netherlands, from 13-25 November 2000. Political
positions on the key issues remained entrenched, with little
indication of a willingness to compromise. During the second week of
negotiations, COP-6 President Jan Pronk (the Netherlands) attempted
to facilitate negotiations on the many disputed political and
technical issues by convening high-level informal Plenary sessions.
He grouped the issues into the following four "clusters" or "boxes":
(a) capacity building, technology transfer, adverse effects and
guidance to the financial mechanism; (b) mechanisms; (c) LULUCF;
and, (d) compliance, P&Ms, and accounting, reporting and review
under Protocol Articles 5 ,7 and 8. After almost 36 hours of intense
talks in the final two days, negotiators could not achieve an
agreement, with financial issues, supplementarity in the use of the
mechanisms, compliance and LULUCF proving particularly difficult. On
Saturday afternoon, 25 November, President Pronk announced that
delegates had failed to reach agreement. Delegates agreed to suspend
COP-6, and expressed a willingness to resume in 2001.
COP-6 PART II: In March 2001, the US
administration repudiated the Protocol, stating that it considered
the Protocol to be "fatally flawed," as it would damage its economy
and exempt developing countries from emission targets. Parties
reconvened at COP-6 Part II and the fourteenth sessions of the
subsidiary bodies, which met in Bonn, Germany, from 16-27 July 2001.
After protracted consultations, President Pronk presented his
proposal for a draft political decision. Several Parties announced
that they could support the political decision, but disagreements
surfaced over the nature of the compliance regime. After several
days of consultations, ministers finally agreed to adopt the
original political decision, with a revised section on compliance.
The political decision – or "Bonn Agreements" – was formally adopted
by the COP on 25 July 2001.
Although draft decisions were approved on a
number of key issues, no agreement was reached on the mechanisms,
compliance and LULUCF. Since not all texts in the "package" of
decisions were completed, all draft decisions were forwarded to
COP-7: Delegates met for COP-7 and the
fifteenth sessions of the subsidiary bodies in Marrakesh, Morocco,
from 29 October - 10 November 2001. The main goal was to complete
tasks left unfinished at COP-6 Parts I and II, thereby bringing to a
close three years of negotiations. The Bonn Agreements served as the
basis for the work.
After protracted bilateral and multilateral
talks, a package deal on LULUCF, mechanisms, Protocol Articles 5, 7
and 8, and input to the WSSD was proposed on Thursday evening, 8
November. Although the deal was accepted by most regional groups,
including the G-77/China and the EU, the Umbrella Group (a loose
alliance of Annex I Parties that includes Australia, Canada, Japan,
New Zealand, and the Russian Federation) did not join the consensus.
They disputed, among other things, eligibility requirements and
bankability under the mechanisms. However, following extensive
negotiations, the Marrakesh Accords were agreed, with key features
including consideration of LULUCF Principles and limited banking of
units generated by sinks under the CDM.
SB-16: Parties met in the sixteenth sessions
of the subsidiary bodies from 5-14 June 2002, in Bonn. The meeting
considered a range of issues previously left off the agenda due to
the pressing BAPA negotiations. Views on the direction of the
climate process varied greatly, with some Parties looking backward
to recent debates and others looking ahead toward the next
commitment period. Many expressed their hope that the Protocol could
enter into force by the August 2002 World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD), with the EU and Japan announcing their
ratifications just prior to the Summit. Several draft decisions were
agreed and forwarded to COP-8 to be considered and adopted.
WSSD: From 26 August to 4 September 2002, the
WSSD was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The WSSD adopted text
identifying the UNFCCC as the "key" instrument for addressing
climate change, reaffirming the UNFCCCï¿½s ultimate objective, and
emphasizing the importance of developing cleaner technologies in key
sectors such as energy. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation also
makes reference to timely ratification of the Protocol by those
states who have not yet done so. Delegates agreed on further text
identifying actions to address climate change, such as providing
technical and financial assistance to developing countries, and
countries with economies in transition.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: With terrorism high on
the international agenda, the climate change threat may not be at
the fore of global political attention. Yet, many eagerly await the
Protocolï¿½s entry into force. Canada, China, and the Russian
Federation declared their intentions to ratify the Protocol during
the WSSD and, since June 2002, an additional 22 Parties have
ratified the Protocol. With Russiaï¿½s ratification, the total
percentage of Annex I emissions will be 54.8%, 0.2 percent away from
the required 55%. Assuming the Protocol enters into force by early
2003, Annex I Parties will have less than ten years to meet their
emissions targets set for the first commitment period. The issue of
future commitments already looms over the negotiations.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
COP OPENING PLENARY: The first meeting of the COP plenary
will take place today in the morning.
SB-17 OPENING MEETING: The opening of the subsidiary bodies
is expected in the afternoon.
Please check the daily programme and notice boards for locations.