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The Buenos Aires Plan of Action

The main outcome of the Fourth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was an ambitious two-year work programme intended to make the Kyoto Protocol operative.

The Buenos Aires Plan of Action covers a range of activities due to reach completion by the Sixth Conference of the Parties late in the year 2000. It commits the Parties to the Convention to make progress on a number of important issues, including:

  • the financial mechanisms which support action by the developing countries;
  • compliance, the development of a strong and comprehensive regime, and policies and measures for emissions reduction;
  • the development and transfer of appropriate technologies to developing countries;
  • the special needs and concerns of countries affected by climate change and by the response to the climate threat;
  • rules governing the Kyoto Protocol Mechanisms, previously the “flexible mechanisms,” such as Joint Implementation, emissions trading, and, as a priority, the Clean Development Mechanism; and,
  • extension of the Activities Implemented Jointly pilot phase.

In contrast to the outcome of the Third Conference of the Parties in Kyoto, developing country delegates can feel some satisfaction following the Buenos Aires meeting in that they managed to resolve long-outstanding matters concerning technology transfer and financial issues. In no small part, this was a result of the leverage granted southern negotiators by the deadlock imposed by the US Senate’s refusal to adopt any emissions controls without developing world participation.

As far as the industrialized nations are concerned, the Plan of Action does represent a clear commitment to implementing the flexible mechanisms defined by the Kyoto Protocol (if it ever comes into force!) and, thus, an efficient and effective emissions control regime.

But serious concerns remain. Compliance is a critical issue, with few industrialized nations close to meeting the initial target of emissions stabilization by the year 2000. The relative contribution of domestic emissions reductions and those achieved abroad through mechanisms such as Joint Implementation is already proving contentious.

Finally, there is a grave danger that the future “monetarization” of emissions, through trading schemes and the like, will put a brake on action over the next few years. Both private and governmental initiatives may be held back until a formal trading regime is in place and genuine credit, financial or otherwise, can be taken.

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