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Five issues for COP-5

Lavanya Rajamani considers five significant issues that will need to be discussed and clarified to enable progress to be made at the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-5) to be held from the 25th October to the 5th November 1999 in Bonn, Germany.

The author is a doctoral student at the Law Faculty at Oxford University, a Project Director at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Writer/Editor for the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

The “Workshop” Culture

In seeking to operationalize the ambition of the Kyoto Protocol, Parties are experimenting with the “workshop route.” Some of the more complex climate issues have been parceled-off to be discussed in workshops. In the run-up to COP-5, workshops are slated to occur on technology transfer, adverse effects, and compliance.

While these workshops are not intended to be negotiating sessions, the exchange in views that they facilitate are expected to improve the quality of the debate at COP-5. There is, however, a concern that the number and intensity of these discussion sessions could overwhelm certain developing countries with limited human and other resources to devote to the climate issue.

At Bonn, developing countries repeatedly expressed a desire for “time to reflect” on the ramifications of various ideas emerging from the meetings. The workshop culture that the process seems to have embraced deprives the developing countries of valuable time for reflection.

Yet another concern relates to the inability of the G-77/China group to meet inter-sessionally. In Bonn, the G-77/China group spent several hours in closed regional meetings developing positions on the mechanisms and compliance. In response to the impatient non G-77/China group participants, they explained that since they did not have a chance to meet inter-sessionally they could not debate and formulate their positions except when assembled for negotiating sessions.

Until arrangements are made to facilitate inter-sessional G-77/China group meetings, workshops will not scratch the surface of the conflicts that need to be resolved to breathe life into the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Mechanisms

Nearly two years after the hastily put together Kyoto Protocol, the G-77/China group is finally coming to terms with the financial and other ramifications of the Kyoto Mechanisms. Countries, face-to-face with the reality that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) will not have uniform benefits across countries, are emerging with new and interesting ways of shaping the CDM. COP-5 will likely see the issues of unilateral mechanisms, emissions avoidance and adaptation funding discussed and perhaps resolved. In Bonn, Parties agreed to produce a new synthesis of Party positions in time for COP-5 and there could be an attempt there to revise this new synthesis and create a possible basis for a draft negotiating text.

The compliance regime

The growing Annex-1 call for developing country participation in mitigation efforts under the Kyoto Protocol has been matched by a strong developing country emphasis on the creation of a strict compliance regime.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), at the helm of the compliance ship, is, however, at a cross roads at this stage in the negotiations. If they strongly endorse compliance and insist that the CDM result in real measurable and long-term benefits, as they are wont to do, there will be an increase in the transaction costs of the mechanisms and a corresponding decrease in the potential to impose a high adaptation charge on the mechanisms.

It is the adaptation fund, however, that is of vital importance to the small island states. As countries with negligible emissions, they are unlikely to generate interest in potential investors under the CDM. Their hopes may rest on the CDM generating funds for adaptation. The small island states could use their share of the money to fund vulnerability assessments and adaptation measures in their countries, likely to be the first and worst hit by climate change.

Certain preliminary details relating to the creation of a compliance system are likely to be ironed out in the run-up to and in COP-5.

Global participation

The issue of voluntary commitments is likely to rear its head at COP-5 and will probably do so again at COP-6. With Kazakhstan and Argentina sporting radically different ideas on the notion of “voluntary commitments” and what it entails, there will doubtless be a flurry of activity in the corridors at COP-5 with Parties seeking to sell their perception of the notion and its potential benefits. The long-standing resistance to the idea from certain powerful quarters, China and India among them, however, continues, so the idea is unlikely to take off at COP-5.

The Majuro Statement

AOSIS, in keeping with its image as the conscience-keeper of the climate negotiations, has produced the Majuro Statement on Climate Change. The Majuro Statement highlights the importance of domestic action in Annex-B countries and vulnerability assessment, adaptation and capacity building in the least developed nations and small island states. The Statement emerged out of a regional workshop on the Clean Development Mechanism held in July 1999, organized by the Alliance of Small Island States in the Marshall Islands.

Further information

Lavanya Rajamani, Hertford College, Catte Street, Oxford OX1 3BW, UK. Email:

On the Web

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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