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News from Bonn

The latest climate negotiations took place in Bonn, Germany, from May 31st to June 11th 1999.

The current negotiating phase consists of rather laborious progress towards implementing the Kyoto Protocol that tightens the emissions control requirements under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Buenos Aires Plan of Action, agreed in November 1998, established a two-year deadline for this process.

“The political commitment that was made in Kyoto will become truly convincing when these complicated technical details are resolved,” said Michael Zammit Cutajar, the treaty’s Executive Secretary.

In Bonn, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation discussed, amongst other matters, the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol including the three “flexibility” mechanisms, clean development, joint implementation and emissions trading.

Though the issue of emissions trading remains a source of conflict between the “Umbrella” group of nations, led by the United States, and the European Union, a temporary truce on one controversial aspect was declared in Bonn so progress could be made in other areas. The United States and allies would like to take full advantage of this method of reducing costs by funding emissions control more cheaply abroad. The European Union wants limits placed on the proportion of a national target that can be achieved in this way.

The G-77/China group spent much time in internal debate on issues such as the clean development mechanism with sharply-defined regional positions emerging. A compromise document was agreed after a week or so of discussion to the relief of the other delegates.

It was agreed that a new synthesis of positions on the flexible mechanisms will be completed in time for the next Conference of the Parties to be held in November 1999.

The Bonn meeting dealt largely with technical matters and it would have been unwise to expect any dramatic developments. According to Earth Negotiations Bulletin, “Progress on key controversial issues such as global participation, mechanisms, land use, land use change and forestry, and national communications proved to be patchy. Substantive discussions were simply put on hold and are unlikely to advance before COP-6” — the sixth Conference of the Parties, to take place late in the year 2000.

At present, only nine nations have formally ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The remainder are waiting to see just what decisions are taken regarding the practical implementation of the Protocol’s commitments before accepting the Kyoto targets as legally-binding.

On the Web

This account draws on reports from Earth Negotiations Bulletin and the UNFCCC Secretariat.

Additional comment on the climate negotiations and news of ongoing developments can be accessed via the Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary Newswatch service.

On the Web: the climate negotiations lists further links.

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