November 1, 2001 – Negotiations have finally started in earnest in Marrakech, with governments locked in contact groups to agree on the outstanding technical and legal aspects of the Bonn accord. These technical agreements will be forwarded as draft Decisions to ministers as they arrive next Wednesday. The only Kyoto Protocol issue that was not discussed in Bonn and is therefore the subject of fresh negotiations is that of rules under Articles 5, 7 & 8, which deal with emissions inventories, monitoring and verification.

On compliance, Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia (part of the Umbrella Group of countries) have put forward a proposal to weaken the agreement that governments signed up to in Bonn. Under the Bonn agreement, governments declared that the Kyoto Protocol would include consequences for non-compliance of a mandatory nature. This means that if a country failed to meet its targets, mandatory consequences would automatically follow.

These consequences would include a penalty of 1.3 tonnes of carbon for every tonne by which the country overshot its target and suspension of the non-compliant country’s eligibility to participate in the mechanisms (emissions trading and projects under Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation). Under the Kyoto Protocol, legally binding consequences can only be imposed with an amendment to the treaty, and an amendment can only be adopted once the treaty has entered into force.

The Bonn deal set out what the amendment would include but Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia are now requesting that the nature of the compliance regime should not be prejudged in any way. Japan, Russia and Australia have also been trying to limit the ability of any country to trigger investigations into the compliance status of any other country, instead preferring to rely on the slow machinations of the compliance system itself.

These attacks amount to a clear erosion of political will, demonstrated by ministers in Bonn, to prescribe a robust enforcement regime. The Russian delegation is being particularly destructive, threatening not to ratify if it doesn’t get its way. Hopefully the arrival of high level officials will set the record straight. Fortunately, other Umbrella Group members like Norway and New Zealand are distancing themselves from their former allies. Today, governments are in closed session discussing the compliance text.

It was recognized in Bonn that the decision to include reforestation and afforestation in the Clean Development Mechanism might lead to disastrous impacts as it could encourage the replacement of natural forests and other natural ecosystems by monoculture tree plantations. For that reason, the SBSTA was asked to develop definitions and modalities to address a range of problems associated with such projects before COP9 in 2003. However, the negotiators at Marrakech seem to be hesitant to start up the work in this respect, and it is feared that they will only decide on the Terms of Reference for this work in June 2002, which leaves them a little more than a year to deal with all this work. A related question is whether there will be a so-called prompt start for sinks projects, which implies that these projects, like other CDM projects, can already be set up even though it is not yet certain which modalities and definitions would apply to them. FoEI feels that this would lead to an awkward situation as such precedents might negatively influence SBSTA decision-making. It should be clarified in Marrakech that sinks projects can only start after the modalities and definitions for such projects have been set. At this moment, it is not even clear for example what a “forest” is: according to some any collection of trees would already qualify as a forest.

Meanwhile, despite having rejected the Kyoto Protocol the US seems to be running ahead with its own carbon sinks projects, not bothering about any rules, modalities or definitions that might be established for them. In a brochure, a Brazilian NGO even announced its reforestation projects as “supported by the Clean Development Mechanism”, which is a remarkable statement as the projects were financed by General Motors and Texaco, two US companies.

Provisions for public participation and transparency throughout the COP7 negotiating texts remain weak. Under the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation, only rules that fall short of current international standards are being discussed. Under compliance Russia has even suggested that compliance decisions should only be revealed to the public once the enforcement branch has finished its deliberations. While other Umbrella Group countries have not stated their agreement with Russia, Japan has repeatedly appealed to other governments to take Russia’s concerns seriously.

Tomorrow, governments will discuss the input of the climate process to the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg next September. The World Summit has been scheduled ten years after the Rio summit at which the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed.

So far, governments have shown little interest in adopting a bold initiative on climate. For the fourth year in a row, the issue of the overall adequacy of the Kyoto Protocol (in relation to the Convention objective of preventing dangerous climate change) has been dropped from the agenda. The developing country bloc, G77 and China, is concerned that any discussion of adequacy will allow rich nations to demand that poorer countries take on emissions reductions before committing to significant reductions themselves. This is especially true of the US and Australia who have repeatedly stated that they will not even ratify the Protocol until developing countries take on targets. Meanwhile, other rich countries wish to avoid an assessment of their lack of action to date. This conspiracy of silence must be broken if real progress is to be made, starting with a commitment from rich countries to much deeper cuts.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth International Climate Campaigner Kate Hampton said:
“So far, Russia, Japan and Australia have been using the Marrakech talks to wriggle through ever larger loopholes in the Kyoto Protocol. This is not what the watching world expects. Kyoto was only a first step to preventing dangerous climate change. Governments need to go further and faster, not sit around squabbling about the details and hunting for ways to evade their responsibilities. European and developing countries must continue to stand firm against the attempts of this influential minority to undermine the Kyoto Protocol from within”

Kate Hampton (FOEI International Climate Coordinator in Marrakech 26th October -11th November) +44 774 896 7323
Helen Burley (press officer) + 44 7778 356888