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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2004 / 1201

1201

media briefing
1 december, 2004

ministers meet for crucial climate talks

Advance: 6-17 December 2004 , Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

From Monday 6 until Friday 17 December, governments meet in Buenos Aires for the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The segment which will be attended by ministers and other heads of delegation takes place from 15-17 December.

This is the first COP since Russian ratification of the Kyoto Climate Protocol, which brings the Protocol into force early next year: it will become legally binding on its 128 Parties on 16 February 2005. The Kyoto treaty is the only international treaty aimed at reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. These talks will continue to develop the rules under which the Protocol is implemented.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world with increasing severity. Despite this, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Friends of the Earth believes the Kyoto Protocol is only the first step in tackling climate change. There is an urgent need for industrialized countries to move forward with greater emissions cuts and go beyond Kyoto.

Discussions are likely to emerge in Buenos Aires on commitments for the post-Kyoto regime from 2012. While these negotiations do not begin formally until next year, some countries have already begun to outline their expectations, including the EU and Finland. Key questions are how to engage with the US, which has refused to ratify Kyoto, and with the larger developing countries.

COP10 also marks the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Discussions will also look at a range of issues, including the impacts of climate change and adaptation measures, mitigation policies and their impacts, and technology.

Ministerial Meeting

The high level segment of the COP, which will be attended by ministers and other heads of delegation, takes place from 15-17 December. Negotiators have recommended discussions look at the following four themes:

  • The Convention after 10 years: accomplishments and future challenges
  • Impacts of climate change, adaptation measures and sustainable development
  • Technology and climate change
  • Mitigation of climate change: po licies and their impacts

There has as yet been no indication that there will be any political declaration at the close of COP10.

kyoto protocol

The Kyoto Protocol comes into force on 16 February, marking a significant step forward for this COP. Considerably greater interest, optimism and activity is expected in Buenos Aires than was previously anticipated. It also means that from 16 February:

  • •Thirty industrialised nations will be legally bound to meet quantitative targets for reducing or limiting their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Clean Development Mechanism will become fully active.
  • Preparations will begin for using the Protocol’s Adaptation Fund, established in 2001 to assist developing countries to cope with negative effects of climate change.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • Kyoto only constitutes a first step in the fight against climate change. It will merely stabilise the average emissions of those industrialised nations that participate.
  • There is an urgent need to move forward and deliver deeper, more equitable cuts in the second phase, with emission entitlements based on the per capita principle. Next steps must be based on keeping global warming to stay below 2C which, as recent science reveals, means keeping concentrations well below 450ppm. Industrial countries must commit to the largest cuts, in the range of 80% by 2050, or about 3% annually, compared to 1990 levels.

u.s. isolation

Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol leaves the US more isolated in its stance on climate change. The US is responsible for a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, yet only represents about four per cent of the world’s population. The Bush administration has exaggerated the scientific uncertainties in order to confuse the case for action.

Voluntary US measures to combat global warming have been in place for more than 10 years, but over this period US emissions have increased by 14 per cent. President Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, arguing that US business interests would be harmed by the treaty.

Many US businesses are aware of the gains to be had from trading and are eager to participate. There is clear appetite and interest in a regional US trading scheme but this cannot and should not be linked to the EU trading scheme whilst the US sits outside the Protocol.

Ahead of COP10, British Prime Minister Tony Blair remarked that “a different way forward” was needed by the international community because the US would not change its mind over Kyoto. Tony Blair must push Bush to act on climate change, particularly using his position in presiding over G8 next year to generate dialogue and strong action from the US.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • Without US involvement, climate change will be difficult to resolve and deadlock between developing countries will continue.
  • President Bush must recognise his country’s contribution to creating climate change and play a leading role in international efforts to reduce it.

future negotiations

Negotiations on post-Kyoto are due to begin next year. Crucial questions will be on future targets and also commitments from developing countries emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases. Some countries are already beginning to make their proposals (see below). There have been calls to delay these discussions until 2011 when he believes it will be easier to negotiate with the US in a post-Bush world. But climate change cannot wait for the US President.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • Governments must agree the post 2012 target/regime before the first commitment period starts. Such a delay offers negotiating space if countries are failing to meet their targets.

the european union

The outgoing EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström recently set out the European Commission's agenda for next month's conference of the parties (COP10) to the UN climate change convention. The Commission will use COP10 as an opportunity not only to push for post-2012 greenhouse gas reduction targets, but also to stress the importance of poorer countries to future climate change policy. Ms Wallström said the Commission hoped to win international support for climate change technologies by continuing to "lead by example", and by informing delegates about the EU's soon to be launched carbon emissions trading system. However, member states seem to be increasingly unwilling to make progressive proposals at COP10, especially as long as the US stays out, fearing competitive disadvantages for EU industry, also given the current feeling of economic slowdown within the EU.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • The EU must continue its leadership role, both by more action at home to meet Kyoto targets and commit to deeper cuts for the future, leading to 80% by 2050.
  • All parties must introduce import taxes on energy intensive products from countries that refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (i.e. the US and Australia).

business and industry in europe

EU industry is extremely unwilling to allow the EU to commit to post-2012 targets before a) the US and some developing countries (China, Brazil etc.) get on board. The business lobby argues that EU action alone is not enough, and will carry costs. They also say that more research needs to be done to develop technologies and ways of making action cost-effective. In other words, they are only willing to act if their profits are not affected. Industry appears to be effectively following a well-documented strategy of delaying action.

climate change litigation

Friends of the Earth International is co-hosting a side event at the COP 10 talks in Buenos Aires on Climate change litigation: who’s doing it, why’s it happening and how serious is it? This will explain the recent legal actions around the world against governments and companies, highlighting their scientific backing, and warning that there’ll be more to come unless deep cuts are made in emissions and victims are compensated. Speakers will include Peter Roderick, Climate Justice Programme, Myles Allen, Oxford University, Don Goldberg, Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and Ken Alex, who is representing the State of California in the public nuisance action filed against power companies. The event takes place on Thursday 16th December at 6.15pm.

What is being discussed at COP10?

In addition to the four themes of the Ministerial High Level Segment, a number of items on the provisional agenda are key:

Review of Adequacy

The Framework Convention requires that governments regularly review the adequacy of action being taken to address climate change. But governments have refused to discuss this since 1998. Developing countries do not want to open the issue of new commitments because they fear targets, and industrialised countries are fearful of attack on their lack of progress. G77 (the block of developing countries) wants to provide for a review of the adequacy of implementation of existing commitments, not the commitments themselves. Under the Convention and the Protocol, industrialised are supposed to lead in reducing their emissions because the overriding priority for developing countries is poverty alleviation.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • Until the United States and other rich nations make significant emission reductions and provide sufficient funding for a clean transition in the South, this deadlock will continue, with disastrous consequences for climate vulnerable communities around the world.
  • A review of adequacy is urgently needed to set the stage for the next round of emissions reduction negotiations (planned for 2005). Governments must establish a process by which this review can occur.
  • The principle of equity must be central to any review of adequacy, with a focus on reducing disparities in per capita emissions globally and the provision of clean and affordable energy services to the poor.

Funding for Developing Countries

At previous talks, the EU, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland agreed to collectively contribute $410 million annually by 2005 to fund adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building for all developing countries. The Marrakech accords called for the establishment of an Adaptation Fund and a Special Climate Change Fund to address these issues, and a Least Developed Countries Fund to assist the world's poorest nations in developing National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). The Adaptation Fund will be funded by a levy on projects under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, plus voluntary contributions. Kyoto coming into force brings this Fund into action.

As the need for adaptation gains a higher profile, OPEC countries have tried to claim that the financial and technical needs of oil exporting countries to ‘adapt’ to economic loss caused by climate policies in industrial countries (called “impact of response measures” and oil-export dependent countries needs for “economic diversification”) should be included. This could prove to be a contentious issue for COP10. Most, if not all industrial governments, reject outright payments to cover the loss of oil revenues for OPEC.

Negotiators agreed earlier this year that the UN Secretariat would produce a report by COP10 to assess whether or not the past Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding levels were adequate to meet past COP decisions. Such a report may show that industrial countries may have been evading financing responsibilities to developing countries. So far very little money has been pledged to the Special Climate Change Fund.

For developing countries this is a matter of outright liability owed by industrial countries for the damages caused by their large emissions.

The issue of funding for developing countries is critical.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • The most vulnerable are already feeling the worst and most dangerous effects of climate change.
  • Adaptation is essential to help communities around the world reduce their vulnerability to climate impacts and more emphasis needs to be placed on community level disaster mitigation and preparedness.
  • Commensurate new funds and other resources must be made available by industrialised nations for poor country adaptation, bearing in mind that rich-country subsidies to their domestic, fossil-fuel industries stood at $73 billion per year in the late 1990s.
  • Funding must be predictable and provided in sufficient amounts according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle. The US has so far failed to commit any funds, despite having ratified the Framework Convention, and the commitment by the EU and other countries is wholly inadequate when compared with the task at hand.
  • Compensation should not be offered (under the heading of economic diversification) to OPEC countries that may face reduced oil revenues as a consequence of other countries shifting to cleaner technologies.

Technology Transfer

Developed countries are committed to taking all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other countries, particularly to developing countries. Parties have taken decisions to promote the development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies at each session of the COP.

In Marrakech, an Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT) was established. The Expert Group comprises 20 experts, including three members from each of the developing country regions (Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean), one from the small island developing states, seven from the developed countries and three from relevant international organisations to enhance and facilitate transfer activities. COP 12 (in 2006) will review the progress of the work and the terms of reference of the Expert Group.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • Without clean technology transfer, developing countries will continue to be locked into a path of fossil fuel based development; without a transition to clean energy in developing countries, dangerous levels of global warming will be unavoidable.
  • Greater facilitation, (such as funding and technology licensing) of equitable North-South and South-South transfer is needed.

The Clean Development Mechanism

COP10 will consider the report of the Executive Board that overseas the Clean Development Mechanism. The CDM was established to support climate-friendly sustainable development in developing countries, while awarding credits that industrialised countries could count against their domestic emissions targets.

The CDM is failing in its mandate to promote sustainable development, most notably by not financing projects that help in the long term transition of developing country energy sectors towards renewable technologies. The evidence to date is that most industrialised country governments and corporations are using the CDM merely to reduce the costs of complying with their Kyoto targets and as such are searching for projects that deliver large volumes of cheap credits. These are commonly projects that capture or destroy gases with high global warming potentials like methane, nitrous oxide (N2O) and hydrofluorocarbons (such as HFC23) at existing facilities.

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • Funding for plantation projects and large dams under the CDM is unacceptable because of their negative social and environmental impacts.
  • The CDM should provide money for renewables and energy efficiency.
  • Governments should concentrate on reducing emissions at home.

Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

COP9 agreed the use of genetically-modified organisms or invasive species in forestry projects, funded through the Protocol's so-called Clean Development Mechanism, despite the fact that the vast majority of such plantations are environmentally and socially destructive. These issues may be discussed again at COP10

Friends of the Earth International believes:

  • Sinks should be ruled out for the post-2012 regime.
  • Large scale plantations are environmentally and socially destructive and should not be used, and in particular not as alternatives to emission cuts in the north.
  • The EU should permanently exclude credits from sinks to enter the Emissions Trading Scheme and ban the use of sinks under the CDM for EU member states’ commitments.
  • Parties should implement the FCCC duty to combat deforestation and promote forest conservation and sustainable agroforestry projects.
  • Northern countries should focus on promoting and financing renewable energy and energy efficiency and on curbing greenhouse gas emissions at home rather than through destructive sinks in North and South.
  • Governments should ban the use of GM trees as part of their carbon mitigation strategy, and impose a moratorium on GM trees and other genetically modified organisms as long as there are scientific uncertainties about the risks involved.

Bunker Fuels

The European Parliament has recently made a strong demand ahead of COP10 to include aviation and shipping within the Kyoto Protocol. The Parliament urged the European Commission to press Kyoto signatories into”incorporating emissions from international flights and shipping into the emission reduction targets of the second commitment period from 2012.”

The most conservative estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that international flights account for 3.5 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that are believed to cause global warming. Emissions from international transport ships account for 1.8 percent of emissions, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

 

contacts

Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth International Climate Change Campaigner (in Buenos Aires Dec 2-17) on +54 911 50040642 (from Buenos Aires dial 15 50040642) or+ 44 7811 283 641

Niccolo Sarno, Friends of the Earth International Press Officer (in Buenos Aires December 12-17) + 54 911 540 17747 (from Buenos Aires dial 15 540 17747)

Roque Pedace, Friends of the Earth Argentina (m) +54 911 540 875839 (from Buenos Aires dial 15 540 875839)

Yuri Onodera, Climate Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Japan (in Buenos Aires December 3-17) + 81 90 6504 9494

Press Office Friends of the Earth in London + 44 (0) 7811 283 641 / +44 (0)20 7566 1723

 

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