MILAN (ITALY) – Ministers from all over the world arrive in Milan this week for the 9th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [1].

Although press speculation has centered on when and whether Russia will ratify the Convention’s Kyoto Protocol, the overwhelming majority of the world’s governments are moving ahead and discussing the complex rules that will govern its operation.

One hundred and twenty countries, responsible for 44.2% of the world’s ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions, have already ratified the Kyoto agreement. It is the only serious, international framework for tackling the causes of climate change.

As ministers arrive today, Friends of the Earth International and the Global Forests Coalition presented the ‘Treetanic Awards’, an annual recognition of the audacious attempts by timber plantation owners to benefit from the Kyoto Protocol. This year the award was presented to PLANTAR, a Brazilian eucalyptus plantation company specializing in producing charcoal for the steel industry and barbecues.

Meanwhile, the United States Government, which has rejected Kyoto, continues to snipe in the background. The US is running a series of side events to convince the world that it is serious about climate change, focusing on changes to the way it manages its scientific and technological research programs. At the same time, it continues to obstruct where it can – such as on talks over the Convention’s budget.

Outside the formal process, think-tanks, consultancies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are throwing around ideas and laying out proposals for how the next phase of (greenhouse gas) emissions reductions – the so-called ‘second commitment period’- should operate. Governments are expected to start talks on future commitment periods soon after Russia ratifies.

The formal agenda:

The overwhelming bulk of the rules that will govern how Kyoto operates have already been agreed – at previous meetings in Bonn (2001), Marrakech (2001) and New Delhi (2002). Two big issues, still to be negotiated, are dominating the agenda at Milan.

Firstly, countries are debating the rules that will govern which forestry projects will be eligible for emission reduction credits as part of the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, or CDM. (The CDM allows industrialized countries to pay for projects in developing countries that cut emissions and/or absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via treeplanting. They count emissions saved from these projects toward their own reduction targets).

Again, here, much has already been agreed. Countries can get credit for new schemes and for re-planting areas that were previously forested. Debate at Milan has focused on the detail. NGOs, and many counties, want rules to prevent the planting of genetically-modified trees or invasive alien species. They want to ensure the increases in carbon sequestered are genuine and that communities affected by schemes are properly consulted.

Secondly, countries are talking about money: the detailed objectives of and conditions for use of the Protocol’s Special Climate Change Fund and the cost and distribution of contributions to the Convention Secretariat’s budget. The Special Climate Change Fund provides money, amongst other things, to help developing countries adapt to climate change. Industrialized countries are trying to limit their contributions to it. The Convention’s Budget is now largely agreed.

The US played foul by refusing to pay for work on the Kyoto Protocol – despite continuing to intervene occasionally in discussions over it. Now money for the Convention and money for the Kyoto Protocol have been split. In addition, it was decided that funding for the preparation of the Protocol will only come from voluntary contributions. This creates a budgetary insecurity that might jeopardize a quick start of the Protocol.

Ministers are expected to haggle and then compromise over the thorny points of these discussions. They will also hold three ’roundtable discussions’ to air thoughts on three broad themes that will be important for the second commitment period:

  • Climate change, adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development;
  • Technology, including technology use and development, and transfer of technologies; and
  • Assessment of progress at the national, regional and international levels to fulfil the promise and objective enshrined in the climate change agreements, including the scientific, information, policy and financial aspects.

Friends of the Earth:

Friends of the Earth International representatives are lobbying on issues being discussed at COP9, through the Climate Action Network, a worldwide network of over 340 Non-Governmental Organizations working to promote government, private sector and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.

Events organized at COP9 by members or affiliates of Friends of the Earth International have included or will include:

  • “The Treetanic Awards”, an annual award given by Friends of the Earth international and the Global Forests Coalition to the most audacious attempts by owners of big tree plantations to benefit from the Protocol. This year’s award was given on Tuesday, 9th December to PLANTAR, a Brazilian eucalyptus plantation company. The company specializes in producing charcoal for the steel industry and barbecues. From its outset, PLANTARS activities have resulted in serious and widespread environmental and social impacts, such as land appropriation and population eviction, pollution of water, depletion of soils, deforestation, employment loss, poor working conditions and child labour. In reward for this, the World Bank has approved PLANTAR has its first carbon sink project with the Prototype Carbon Fund.
  • “Big Dams and Climate Change” – a side event organized with participation of the International Rivers Network, drawing attention to the adverse impacts on people and wildlife that arise from massive hydropower schemes. The Network fears that international hydropower industry could also seek to gain credit for new large-scale hydropower projects through the Kyoto Protocol. The side event takes place at Hotel Astoria, viale Murillo 9, Milano at 18:00-21:00 on Tuesday 9 December.
  • “Banking on hot air – corporate welfare fuelling climate change” – a presentation by Friends of the Earth International’s Rod Harbinson on the role of international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, in funding fossil fuel and damaging large forestry projects. The talk takes place at La Stecca degli Artigiani, via Confalonieri 10, 20124 Milano at 18:00-19:30 on Wednesday, 10 December.
  • Amici della Terra Lombardia is also taking advantage of COP9 to raise awareness of climate change in Milan and the Lombardy region. It is holding a series of events.


Friends of the Earth International:
Roger Higman : +39-335-138-9242
Yuri Onodera: +39-338-9752248

Friends of the Earth Lombardia:
Francesca Biagi +39-348-271-4932


[1] The high-level, Ministerial segment starts formally on Wednesday, 10th December and continues till Friday, 12th December