Please note that FoEI representatives from several countries will be available in New Delhi for comment and analysis on the progress of the talks. A separate contact list is available.

Press Officer – Alex Phillips on +91 98102 74093
Lead Spokesperson – Kate Hampton on +91 98180 96658

UN Climate talks in Delhi (COP8)

Climate disasters around the world, such as the recent floods in Europe and China and droughts in US and India, should be concentrating Government minds on the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, emissions continue to rise, even in countries that have already agreed to emissions targets under the Kyoto climate treaty.

From Wednesday 23 October until Friday 1 November, Governments will be meeting in New Delhi, India, for the 8th Conference of the Parties to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP8). The purpose of this round of UN climate talks is to continue developing international rules under which the UN Convention and the Kyoto Protocol can be implemented. The Kyoto treaty is the only international treaty aimed at reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases but it has not yet become international law.

The Indian Government is seeking to prioritise the implementation of existing agreements, and policies that address climate change and sustainable development together. An emphasis on ‘adaptation’ measures to reduce the vulnerability of developing countries to climate change (where most of the impacts will be felt) and technology transfer can be expected.

Update on the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was agreed in 1997. But negotiations to design rules for its implementation still continue. Most of the rules were agreed at climate talks in Bonn and Marrakech in 2001, when the international community decided to move ahead without the United States, which has reneged on Kyoto under the Bush administration. While domestic pressure on the Bush administration is mounting as a growing number of states and local authorities adopt climate policies, the US continues to undermine multilateral action globally. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, a US-OPEC coalition forced the abandonment of a proposed global renewable energy target.

The Kyoto Protocol requires that 55 countries plus countries representing 55% of industrialised country emissions ratify the treaty (i.e. pass it into domestic law) before it can enter into force as an international agreement.

Without the US, Russia is the country upon which Kyoto’s entry into force depends. During the WSSD, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov stated that Russia intends to ratify “in the very near future”. It is now expected that Russia will complete the process in the first half of 2003.

During the WSSD, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien also announced his Government’s intention to put the Kyoto Protocol before parliament for ratification, despite ongoing opposition from the Canadian energy industry and energy producing provinces. This opposition has led the Canadian government to continue seeking last minute concessions in the form of a loophole that would enable Canada to claim credit for exporting energy to the US. So far, other countries have resisted these demands. Canada is not essential to entry into force but is a major energy consumer and producer.

Australia is the only industrialised country which, like the US, has stated that it will not ratify. The EU and Japan have already ratified the treaty, along with most Central and Eastern European countries, including Poland and Hungary, and many developing countries including Brazil, China and India.

How much further do we have to go?

Despite years of negotiations, the Kyoto Protocol is only a first step in the fight against climate change and has been watered down at the behest of the ‘Umbrella Group’ of countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and Russia. Kyoto will merely stabilise, or reduce by a few percentage points against 1990 levels, the average emissions of those industrialised countries that participate. In order to prevent severe global warming damage, industrialised countries will have to cut their emissions by about 80% by 2050 against 1990 levels. Developing countries will also have to make a transition to cleaner energy, transport and modes of production in the coming decades in order to avert climate disaster.

Many countries are beginning to look beyond the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. For instance, according to an ENDS Daily report on the German SDP-Green coalition agreement this week, “Germany will push for the EU to go beyond its current Kyoto protocol commitment to cut greenhouse gases to agree a target reduction of 30% from 1990 levels by 2020. In this context, Germany should reduce its own emissions by 40%, the parties have agreed.”

However, in the absence of tough action to cut emissions so far, developing countries are increasingly focusing on the need for funds to protect themselves against the damage that is already occurring and against future projected impacts. Moreover, with the world’s biggest polluter, the US, still firmly out of the picture, many governments, both North and South, are unwilling to take further action. But not all impacts can be ‘adapted’ to and many ecosystems face collapse, even at low levels of warming. Emissions reductions cannot be avoided.

What’s up at COP8?

The key issues on the agenda at COP 8 are outlined below:

Funding for developing countries

At the climate talks in Bonn, the EU, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland agreed collectively to contribute $410 million annually by 2005, either through bilateral or multilateral channels, to fund adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building for all developing countries, and economic diversification for fossil fuel exporting developing countries. The Marrakech accords called for 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. Contributions to the other funds are entirely voluntary, as is the replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that was established at the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. COP8 is expected to make arrangements for the establishment of the new funds and provide guidance on how the money should be spent.

Friends of the Earth International believes that:

  • 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.
  • 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. Technology transfer needs to be driven by and adapted to local needs, and supported by adequate information sharing and capacity building.
  • Funding must be predictable and provided in sufficient amounts according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle. However, 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 .

Review of adequacy

The Framework Convention requires that Governments regularly review the adequacy of action being taken to address climate change. However, this item has been knocked off the negotiations table as Governments refuse to discuss it. Developing countries do not want to open the issue of new commitments because they fear that they will have to take on targets, and industrialised countries that have shown little progress in addressing climate change are fearful that they will also be open to attack. G77, the developing country negotiating bloc wishes to amend this agenda item to provide for a review of the adequacy of implementation of existing commitments, not the commitments themselves. Whether this position will change before the Kyoto Protocol enters into force and industrialised countries have made progress on their commitments remains to be seen. 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 that:

o Until the United States and other rich nations make significant emissions 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 through which this review can take place.
  • 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.

The integration of science and policy

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Third Assessment Report (TAR) last year. The purpose of the report is to present the current state of climate science and socio-economic analysis so that policy makers can make informed decisions during the negotiations. At climate talks this summer in Bonn, Governments agreed to three new agenda items in order to continue discussions on the interaction between science and policy:

1 Research and systematic observation,
2 Impacts of, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, and
3 Mitigation.

While some Governments believe that the TAR provided sufficient data to inform the climate negotiations, obstructive Governments continue to focus on the remaining uncertainties in climate science.

Friends of the Earth International believes that:

  • Climate science is sufficiently robust to warrant urgent and drastic emissions reductions – the investigation of uncertainties must not derail the acceleration of negotiations to agree new targets.
  • Science should be integrated into every aspect of decision making at the negotiations, even though many of the choices facing policy makers are ultimately political ones.
  • A new fourth area of discussion is necessary to consider the implications of different levels of greenhouse gas stabilisation in the atmosphere for both impacts and emissions reductions.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

At COP8, Governments will consider the first report of the Executive Board that oversees the CDM and will agree rules for the crediting of forestry projects in developing countries. 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. In its first year of activity, the Board has designed an accreditation procedure and Project Design Document for developers and simplified procedures for small projects.

In September, according to CDM Watch, 25 projects were going through the validation process. While half were renewable energy projects, they only accounted for 20% of the credits, so-called Certified Emissions Reductions or CERs. This is because more CERs will be generated by environmentally damaging large dam and plantation projects. The volume of CERs generated by a project is calculated according to a hypothetical baseline of business-as-usual, against which the CDM project is supposed to reduce emissions. Many of proposed projects being proposed are not ‘additional’, i.e. they would have occurred without the extra money generated by the sale of CERs. This is contrary to the rules that established the CDM and means that the project sponsors aren’t actually reducing their emissions.

Friends of the Earth International believes that:

  • 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 not use the CDM as a way of avoiding domestic emissions reductions.

Public outreach

Under the Convention, Governments are required to raise public awareness and ensure public participation regarding climate change. However, little progress is being made either in industrialised countries or in developing countries. There is no concerted effort at international level to disseminate scientific knowledge about global warming and to enhance public participation in the implementation of Kyoto mechanisms, policy design and national reporting has been kept at a minimum.

Friends of the Earth International believes that:

  • Low awareness hinders public participation and Governments’ failure to disseminate scientific knowledge regarding climate change is unacceptable
  • COP8 must provide new impetus for public education, and governments must work with and in support of civil society to increase public awareness regarding global warming’s causes, impacts and solutions.

The Ministerial Segment

The Indian Government has designed a process for the ministerial segment of the conference (30 October to 1 November) composed of three ‘informal’ roundtable discussions:

1 ‘Taking Stock’ of national and international implementation,
2 ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Development’ linkages, and
3 ‘Wrap-up: Framework of Action for Implementation’.

Friends of the Earth International believes that:

  • The Indian government has identified several important areas of work and international pressure to implement existing agreements must be maintained.
  • However, the annual UN climate talks must make urgent progress in addressing climate change so new decisions must be taken to address both adaptation and mitigation needs and increase the pace of negotiations.


Alex Phillips Press Officer +91 98102 74093
Kate Hampton Lead Spokesperson +91 98180 96658

A complete contact list of all Friends of the Earth representatives is available on request – these include representatives from Japan, South Africa, Ghana, United Kingdom, Finland, Brazil, Norway, Australia, Argentina and Ireland. We are able to provide interviews in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Norwegian and Finnish.