ECO Newsletter

by William Yeatman on October 12, 2000

The Hague


1.      CAN – Voices from the Regions

2.      COP6 – Pronk’s Masterpiece?

3.      4.6 Million Voices, and Counting…

4.      Compliance for Non-Techies

5.      The Nature of Sinks

6.      Targets with Holes?

7.      Nuclear – the End is Nigh!

8.      Ignore Florida!

9.      Contacts

10.    Credits

Eco has been published by Non-Governmental Environmental Groups at major international conferences since the Stockholm Environment Conference in 1972. This issue is produced co-operatively by CAN groups attending the climate negotiations in The Hague, The Netherlands, November 2000.

CAN – Voices from the Regions

South-East Asia

We are deeply concerned about the state of the Kyoto Protocol negotiations and our ability as environmental NGOs to ensure a positive outcome. There are so many fundamental elements which are presently lacking from negotiating texts, it’s difficult to imagine that we will be able to make our influence felt. We are most worried about the prominent inclusion of nuclear and sinks as an option to mitigation of climate change. These are not the answers! The impacts are upon us, and it’s not clear we will have a way out if there is not a commitment on the part of the Parties to recognize the urgent threat climate change poses, and the need to respond with real domestic GHG reductions. We have so much left to accomplish in so little time; can we even make a dent?

North America

Three years ago countries around the world agreed to a small first step to reduce the threat of global warming, the Kyoto Protocol. The heart and soul of that Protocol were the targets for industrialized countries. That heart and soul is now very much at risk. Due to the positions of the US, Japan, Canada and Australia, the Protocol may not even result in the reduction it set out to do in Kyoto. This would place the world’s people and creatures under severe threat — a train wreck for the planet. The loopholes of the Kyoto Protocol could be the noose around nature’s neck. Countries must stop this madness, finalize what they agreed to in Kyoto — a strong downward trend in industrialized country emissions — and move forward. The planet cannot wait.

Central and Eastern Europe

Most Central and Eastern European countries have began JI projects and are also looking forward to making profits from emissions trading.

No countries in the region have a national legal framework on climate change. They are also far from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which makes the use of these two mechanisms possible.

If pressed hard, Government officials in the CEE admit that they are dragging their feet because they would like the “big guys” at The Hague to lead the way.

This is what makes COP6 so important for this region, which has an amazing potential for GHG emissions reduction, but is in the throes of economic and political transition.


The severity and frequency of the impacts of climate change on the livelihoods and economies of southern countries are manifesting themselves through several thousands of lives lost in floods, drought-occasioned famines and destroyed properties, damaged infrastructure, closure of industries and loss of employment due to electricity shortages, loss of profits, etc.

This calls for priority in dealing with adaptation issues at COP6, as the very survival of many developing countries is threatened. How costly adaptation is can be illustrated by the example of a certain EU country lying below sea level, which recently increased adaptation spending by US$ 1 Bn. This attests the sheer impossibility of developing countries ever adapting to climate change without financial and technological assistance form the North.

Therefore CNA insists that all three mechanisms be taxed equally for purposes of equity. Additionally, other methods of funding the costs of adaptation need to be discussed and agreed upon urgently at COP6.

Western Europe

In addition to the serious threats to environmental integrity addressed by my colleagues, we need to build a strong alliance of progressive forces to combat climate change. We need a common voice, a louder voice, to help save the most fragile ecosystems in the world such as corals, mangroves and the forests already threatened by climate change. We need an ever more angry voice to fight together with the most vulnerable communities such as low lying island states and drought-stricken regions in the developing world.

Climate Action Network, the most authoritative body on global warming in civil society, has an opportunity, but more than an opportunity, a unique responsibility, to develop more and better links with those forces that support, produce and implement renewable energies, and the various technologies that foster energy efficiency.

There is no point in defending or arguing for dodgy sinks or any flexibility mechanisms as long as developed nations refuse to take the first basic steps to comply with the Kyoto Protocol: cut fossil fuel emissions at home, and do it now!

And here, NGOs should co-operate with the many upcoming green industries: “It’s your chance, wake up and fight with us”. The oily forces of darkness may take a lead in the early rounds, but in the long run we will prevail — we have to!


COP6 — Pronk’s Masterpiece?

Introducing the master of ceremonies: Jan Pronk, the Dutch Environmental Minister, chair of COP6. It is a very important moment in the negotiations and it is a critical moment in the political career of the chairman.

It’s not an easy job to orchestrate a result that preserves the integrity of the Kyoto Protocol while keeping ‘the climate family’ together. Everyone knows, that there are enormous gaps between the positions of Parties. But there is another, maybe even more important gap between the pace of the negotiations and the growing awareness of the public that climate change is probably already taking place.

With floods, storms and mudslides killing people in countries like Italy, Britain and Switzerland (let alone all those tens of thousands in the South…) more and more citizens are calling for real action against climate change. Already, 58% of UK citizens believe that the current floods have something to do with climate change. The insurance companies also lead us to believe that we are in real trouble. The message is clear: only rules that lead to real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries are acceptable to the atmosphere. Rules that also address the need of those who will suffer most: vulnerable developing countries.

A good master of ceremonies requires tact, feeling for a steady rhythm, and strength to keep instruments in line. Therefore, the chairman has to show wisdom in bridging gaps, but cannot give in to pressures that would undermine the credibility of the Kyoto Protocol. Any compromise on the environmental integrity of the Protocol will mean a compromise of the integrity of the chairman. COP6 could be his masterpiece, or a disastrous disharmony his long political career.


4.6 Million Voices, and Counting…

As the days count down to November’s crucial climate summit in The Hague, a coalition of Climate Action Network members [leading environmental organizations] launched the first international web- based initiative to give citizens around the world a voice in demanding a halt to global warming. Less than two months old, the web site has already generated more than 4.6 million messages to world leaders.

On August 22nd, “” was launched and is currently supported by more than twenty environmental organizations, including World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and NRDC. Other constituencies are also coming onboard such as the Dutch Red Cross and Oxfam. Hosted by WWF, the site is a group project and aims to send ten million messages from the public to heads of state demanding they use COP6 [the November summit] to reduce their country’s global warming pollution, and to agree to a fair and effective Kyoto global warming treaty to reduce the pollution that causes global warming.

The ten million messages represent a million calls for action for every year of inaction. It has been ten years since the international scientific community issued its first warning about the threats the world faces from climate change. In 1990, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its first scientific report on rising levels of global warming gases and their implications for the future. Though the impacts characteristic of global warming have since become increasingly evident on every continent and in most nations, governments have failed to act to turn down the heat. On the contrary, many of the leading polluters have allowed their emissions to increase while pressing for effective international measures to be watered down.

At visitors can e-mail world leaders to express their concern about global warming. Visitors can also download a petition that can be signed and sent off-line. They can then send a cyber postcard to friends encouraging them to join the campaign. The site can currently be viewed in English, French, and German, and a Spanish version is expected soon.

Now as we gather for COP6 in The Hague, governments must meet their deadline for finalizing rules for operating the Kyoto climate treaty – the only international agreement for reducing emissions of global warming gases from the industrialized world. Countries will then be set to implement measures to reduce the pollution that causes global warming and bring the Protocol into force by 2002 at the Rio+10 meeting.


Compliance for Non-Techies

Compliance is NOT a technical issue…

… but one of the most crucial issues about which agreement needs to be reached over the next two weeks: Without a sound compliance regime, we will rely entirely on countries’ political will, good faith, and trust to ensure they keep their commitment to reduce GHG emissions. However, if the pitiful number of effective national plans proposed to date is any measure of political will to reduce domestic emissions, this is no safeguard at all.

So, as global governance does not seem to be mature enough yet to proceed on trust, the question becomes: will the international community be mature enough to impose upon itself rules of control and — shall we mention the taboo word — penalties for cases of misbehaviour?

For CAN, one thing is clear: A Kyoto Protocol with The Hague Rules will be not much more than peeling wallpaper if there are no binding consequences which will ensure that the climate is made whole and targets are met.

PS: to all the states bent on trading (either to earn money, or to escape more stringent action at home): remember, a market only functions on the basis of legal securities — if you want to trade, you need penalties (whether you know it yet or not).


The Nature of Sinks

Anyone who has followed the scientific discussions in relation to the behaviour of the carbon cycle in response to global warning, and is also concerned about the future of the Amazon forests, would have found last Thursday’s issue of Nature more than a little disturbing.

Whilst it is well known that forests are also likely to be subject to climate impacts themselves, the recent climate modelling study reported in Nature projects a dramatic collapse of the Amazonian rainforest as consequence of climate change. This would be begin within a few decades, if fossil fuel emissions increase as per business as usual, due to a combination of reduced precipitation and to increased respiration as a consequence of warming.

The study by Cox and others from the Hadley Centre couples a carbon cycle model with a climate model. It finds that there are potentially huge positive feedbacks from warming. In response to projected warming, the biosphere releases huge amounts of carbon to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating climate change over the next 100 years. Driven by business as usual emissions, the biosphere acts as a net sink until around 2050, whereafter it turns into an overall source. As a result, the business-as-usual concentration increase, without considering the terrestrial biosphere feedbacks, is magnified dramatically by 250 ppmv by the year 2100. The global temperature increase for business-as-usual emissions by 2100 is increased from 5.5C to about 8C as a consequence of this feedback.

As Parties meet in The Hague to adopt crucial decisions in relation to the inclusion of sinks activities under Article 3.4 or under the CDM, the above results, however provisional, should give serious pause for thought. The scientific evidence for a serious risk of a large potential positive feedback from the terrestrial biosphere in response to global warming is growing. It is unsafe to assume that we can rely on a growing sink capacity in the future to help stabilize atmospheric CO2 or to assume that extra carbon stored in the biosphere over coming decades will be permanently kept out of the atmosphere.

* “Acceleration of global warming due to carbon-cycle feedbacks in a coupled climate model” by Peter M. Cox, Richard A. Betts, Chris D. Jones, Steven A. Spall & Ian J. Totterdell, Nature , Vol. 408 (9 November 2000) pp 184-187.


Targets with Holes?

Over the next fourteen days here in The Hague, the Kyoto Protocol is in danger of being sunk by attempts from several industrialised countries to back out of their responsibility to make real cuts in emissions.

Several “loopholes” risk being left open at COP6. The adoption of just one of these loopholes could seriously undermine the emission reduction targets of industrialised nations (OECD countries have agreed to reduce their emissions by 6.9% in 2010 in comparison to 1990). Combined, these loopholes would mean that no action at all would be needed.

For example, unlimited trading of so-called “Hot Air” could allow OECD countries to emit 5% more than without such trading. Furthermore, the credits that could accrue from coal, gas, oil, nuclear (!) and large hydro energy projects under the Clean Development Mechanism are estimated to more than outweigh the targets that OECD countries agreed to in Kyoto to reduce their emissions below 1990 levels.

However, by far the biggest threat to the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol are the so-called “sinks”, the attempt made by some countries to claim emission credits for carbon that is being stored in forests and soils.

During the long vacation since Lyon, we have studied the data that countries have provided on sinks. (A fully revised loophole analysis from Greenpeace, with country specific data, will be available soon). Our initial fears were not exaggerated. We doubt that negotiators are fully aware of the magnitudes of the loopholes they are potentially about to agree upon.

Bad definitions for Afforestation, Reforestation and Deforestation under Article 3.3 (e.g. the FAO Activity based definitions) could allow OECD countries to increase emissions as much as unlimited “Hot Air” trading (5%). If they were to receive credit for all the reported Article 3.4 sinks, they would be able to increase their emissions by a further 10% on 1990 levels.

Most outrageous is the fact that the USA could meet a staggering 63% of its emission reduction requirements (below business as usual levels) if accounting of these Art. 3.4 sinks were permitted. Note, these estimates are based on the governments’ own figures, and many countries have not reported at all. Independent studies have estimated them to be much higher. Given this, even a narrow definition of Art. 3.4 activities could invalidate the already small incentives that the Kyoto Protocol could have to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. In addition to this, and according to estimates by the IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), the potentials for sinks under the CDM are at least as big as the ones from Art. 3.3 and 3.4.

It remains to be seen whether these loopholes will be left open — to do so would be to allow parties to avoid real emission cuts — or whether the negotiations in The Hague prove successful in closing them. Each has the potential to seriously undermine the ultimate objective of the Kyoto Protocol: preventing serious climate change.


Nuclear — the End is Nigh!

This was the year that the nuclear industry cemented its place as the Millenium Dome of energy technologies. Turkey abandoned long- held plans to develop nuclear power and is now pushing wind. Taiwan cancelled construction of its fourth reactor. And for the first time since the 1950s there is no reactor under construction or planned in North America or Western Europe. Turkey’s Prime Minister, in making the announcement to kill off the nuclear program before it killed off Turkey’s economy, posed the simple question: “Why would Turkey build nuclear when everyone else is turning away from it?”.

The US, which is the main promoter of nuclear power in the CDM, should ask themselves a similar question — why are they promoting nuclear power when they have not ordered a new nuclear reactor since 1978, suffered the second worst nuclear accident after Chernobyl, and spent billions unsuccessfully trying to solve the problem of radioactive waste? As China said to Westinghouse when Westinghouse was trying to sell them a new reactor model: “if it’s so good, why aren’t you building it yourselves?”.

The answer of course goes to the heart of the push to include nuclear power in the CDM — orders are scarce and the industry is flailing around for help. At September’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) general conference, some of the few developing countries still considering nuclear power spelled out the link very clearly. India, Pakistan, China and Vietnam presented papers which warned that if they do not receive CDM credits for nukes, new construction will either be reduced or cease altogether. Just in case anyone still didn’t get it, the IAEA underlined the point with the extraordinary admission that “nuclear would not be used by most developing countries in the absence of the CDM mechanism”.

But the IAEA presentations pose another, more disturbing question about having nuclear power in the CDM. The industrialised countries which are pushing hardest for nuclear power to be in the CDM — the US, Japan and Canada — refuse to export reactors to India and Pakistan. The UK and France have also declared them off- limits. The reason is that neither India nor Pakistan has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), refuse to open their nuclear facilities to full-scope anti-proliferation safeguards inspections, and are actively developing nuclear weapons. It’s a particularly touchy issue for the US and Canada, as they provided nuclear technology to India in the 1960s and 70s which India used as the basis for their bomb program, despite promising they wouldn’t.

So why, here in The Hague, are these same industrialised countries now pushing so hard to turn the CDM into a subsidy for the India and Pakistan nuclear programs? Are the US, Japan and Canada really proposing to provide political and financial support through the Kyoto Protocol to two nuclear industries against which they are currently imposing sanctions? Not only is this an embarrassingly inconsistent policy, but one which threatens to undermine global efforts to promote non-proliferation.

To mark the opening of COP6, anti-nuclear groups are organising a march today against nuclear power in the CDM, from Malieveld to the Conference Centre starting at 13:00 today.


Ignore Florida!

And the winner is… well we do not know that yet, but we do know that uncertainty about the outcome of the US presidential election should not change Parties’ goals or stances at COP6. The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated on the watch of the Clinton/Gore Administration. The Clinton Administration is in the White House until January 20th and has the mandate to finalize the deal. They should therefore be treated as every other delegation and not be singled out for any “special status” (except, of course, that they are trying to water down the Protocol more than any other country.)

Did the elections have an impact on the likelihood of US ratification? It did result in some changes in the make up of the US Senate where two Protocol foes, Senators Abraham and Ashcroft, lost their bids for reelection and two new Protocol supporters, Senators Bill Nelson and Hillary Rodham Clinton were elected. When you couple this with growing public demand for action on global warming and more businesses taking voluntary action, you have a mandate for the US delegation to ensure that negotiations in the Hague result in an environmentally sound Protocol — one that causes real emissions reductions in developed countries.

So, it is fine to keep reading about the votes, but whatever the outcome — and whenever it comes — countries need to negotiate hard with the current Administration and finalize a deal in the Hague that will ensure that developed country domestic industrial emissions take a downturn. Only an outcome with real environmental integrity will have the public support necessary to win ratification — regardless of who is President.



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Editorial/Production: Alister Sieghart, Gilbert Arum, Torsten van Geest

World Wide Web Edition: Richard Elen

Electronic Distribution: Lelani Arris for EcoNet

Assistance from: Roda Verheyen, Jennifer Morgan, Stephan Singer, Atiq Rahman, Nathalie Eddy, Grace Akumu, Bill Hare, Anja Koehne, Ben Pearson, Katherine Silverthorne, Vladimir Dvoretzky, Sam Ferrer, Ilse Chang, Christoph Bals, Manfred Treber.

Published by: The Climate Action Network.

The Climate Action Network would like to thank WWF International, Greenpeace International, the Swedish NGO Secretariat for Acid Rain, the National Environmental Trust, Environmental Defense, The Glastonbury Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts, the Centre for International Environmental Law, Climate Network Europe, and the David Suzuki Foundation.

With resources contributed by Milieudefensie and APC Networks.

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