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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2001 / 18_july_bonn1


thursday, 19 july 2001

progress of negotiations

"We shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause us to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world" Puritan John Winthrop, approaching Massachussets Bay, 1630

Three days into the talks, and neither hide nor hair has been seen in public of the US delegation, led by Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky. The US has failed to hold a press conference to explain what it is doing in Bonn, or why it has even turned up. Suspicions remain, despite assurances given to Mr Pronk, that not content with reneging on the Kyoto Treaty it is also inciting "Umbrella Group" countries to wreck the negotiations altogether.

At the Hague, the EU insisted on two key principles - (a) that there should no land use activities (sinks) in industrialised countries under article 3.4 and (b) that these activities should be excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism, which finances these projects in developing countries. But EU proposals tabled in Bonn are making concessions apparently in response to damaging plans proposed by Australia, Canada and Japan - described by cynics as a "hara-tree-ri" plan. Essentially, this plan would allow every country to choose its own definition of forests (which could presumably include anything from old forests to plantations to rows of shrubs), its own criteria and categories of activities (which could include anything from sheep herding to genetically modified trees), and its own limits on sinks. This last idea is similar to giving an alcoholic the keys to a brewery, and then expecting him to set his own limits and still drive home safely. The EU has effectively abandoned principle (a) by suggesting that sinks be allowed subject to a cap, and is now vague on principle (b).

Neither the EU nor the Australia/Canada/Japanese proposals are based on any sound scientific analysis of permanence, verifiability or any of the other key objections rightly raised by the EU when similar proposals were made during the Hague talks. They contain no safeguards to prevent the development of widespread monoculture plantations, "dead forests" that are already replacing natural ecosystems such as real forests, wetlands and savannahs in many parts of the world. Canada has even attempted to undermine the principle that Kyoto activities should contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, ironic since Canada is the host country to the UN Secretariat of the Biodiversity Convention.

The EU is believed to talking to Russia about a Green Investment Scheme, which would receive the proceeds of Russia's emissions trading, including any trading with countries that failed to ratify the Protocol. The Scheme should provide funds for energy efficiency and clean technology. Whether nuclear projects could be funded under the Scheme is not clear.

However, countries including India, Russia and Japan are pushing hard for nuclear projects to be permitted under both Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism.

On compliance and binding consequences, Australia and Japan have opposed any effective proposals, insisting that the entire negotiating text be placed in brackets. The EU at today's press conference said that agreement on these issues would be very difficult to achieve. The idea that Kyoto could be in effect a voluntary agreement is absurd. The EU must find the nerve to insist that any agreement can be both monitored and enforced.

The only significant area of progress so far appears to be on finance. Increased co-operation between the EU, G77 countries and China is essential to the success of the Bonn talks. Agreement is close on the rules and management of the Global Environment Facility's (GEF) climate change fund, but not yet on the amount of money for developing countries for adaption.

Tomorrow, Science magazine will publish a major article on the recent increase in North Atlantic Hurricane activity. It is expected to show that the years 1995 to 2000 saw the highest level of activity in the reliable record. It is also expected to show that the US East Coast can expect an increase in major hurricane landfalls. Please note that the Science article is embargoed for 8pm today local time.

Commenting on the progress of the talks, Friends of the Earth Environment Campaigner Kate Hampton said:
"The Bonn talks are still bogged down in a swamp created by the decision of the US to renege on Kyoto and the attempts by Japan, Australia, Canada and others to hold the ratification process to ransom. Meanwhile the scientific evidence for climate change grows stronger every day. These talks must not be about pettifogging point-scoring and bureaucratic babble, and still less about attempts by rich countries to pursue their own selfish interests. They should be about the safety and security of the planet, and the people whose future depends on a stable climate. The eyes of all people are indeed upon us. Failure here will make the responsible politicians a byword to future generations - for neglect, arrogance and complacency."

Contact :
Ian Willmore 0174 160 4808 or 00 44 7887 641 344
Howard Mollett 00 41 792 160 206
Daniel Mittler (Lifeboat) 0173 923 4747  



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