COP-6 Off to Shaky Start

by William Yeatman on October 15, 2000

in Kyoto Negotiations

The sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change got off to a shaky start this week. This is supposed to be the concluding conference to finalize the Kyoto Protocol, but there appears to be little movement on the major issues that have plagued the negotiations from the beginning.

According to a Reuters story (November 14, 2000), the disagreement between the European Union and the United States over the use of emissions trading is as sharp as ever. “So far, I haven’t seen anyone move their position by one centimeter,” said Raul Estrada, Argentina’s special representative for the environment. The EU believes that the developed countries should reduce emissions through “tough domestic policies.”

Indeed, the EU probably won’t budge from its negotiating stance. Its 15 nations agreed to form a “united front in demanding tough rules for compliance,” that would “ensure countries made most of their emissions cuts through domestic action rather than through emissions credits or other ‘flexible mechanisms,'” according to a November 8 Reuters story. The EU also agreed to demand firm sanctions against countries which miss their targets and strict limits on the use of so-called ‘carbon sinks’ – uses of forests, which absorb carbon to account for some of a country’s target.

The U.S. and its allies, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, want full emissions trading that would allow them to purchase credits from developing countries and Russia as part of their compliance strategy. Adding to the standoff is a deal struck between the U.S. and fourteen Latin American countries “to push for full-scale trading in greenhouse gas emissions as a solution to global warming.” The emission credits would be created through U.S. funding of rainforest preservation in Latin America (Financial Times, November 6, 2000).

The “G-77 plus China” Group are also trying to present a united front in the negotiations. But their coalition is fracturing due to several disagreements. In general, the group wants the industrialized nations to commit to tough emissions reduction targets. But small island states worried about rising sea levels, for instance, have little in common with oil producing countries in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia claims that it would lose $25 billion per year as a result of Kyoto and wants to be compensated. “There will be no outcome if our concerns are not adequately addressed,” warned Mohammed al-Sabban, head of the Saudi delegation.

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