G-77 disappointed with Lyon climate talks

The two weeks of negotiations on climate change ended in Lyon on 15 September, with developing countries not only disappointed with the progress but even questioning the “good faith intention” of the developed countries.

by Someshwar Singh

Geneva, 18 Sept 2000 -- The two weeks of negotiations on climate change ended in Lyon on 15 September, with developing countries not only disappointed with the progress but even questioning the “good faith intention” of the developed countries.

Speaking on behalf of the 133-member states in the Group of 77 and China, Mr. Mohammad Barkindo of Nigeria said, “We are struck by negotiating positions on some key issues that, at this late stage on the road to The Hague, seem to us to reflect more than cautious examination of the implications of options in decisions the Parties might pursue.”

“I say very frankly at this meeting what I said at yesterday’s private meetings of the heads of regional groups: Developing countries are wondering wether the developed country-Parties, or some of them, have any good faith intention to attempt to accommodate in meaningful ways the priorities of the developing countries,” the Nigerian representative said.

Those priorities, he said, have been well known for some time.

“I will state on behalf of G-77 and China that those priorities will not go away. We will not forget them, and we urge our negotiating partners in the developed world not to do so, either, if they truly share the desire of the developing countries that COP-6 will be a success,” the Nigerian representative said.

The current two-year phase of climate talks will conclude with a planned meeting in the Hague (13-24 November, 2000) at the ministerial level - COP-6 (the sixth Conference of Parties). This final round is expected to be “politically difficult, highly technical, and extraordinarily complex.”

The G-77 spokesman also pointed out the need for transparency and openness in the many inter-sessional meetings that are planned next month (Bonn, Rome, New Delhi and Geneva) to achieve a “balanced and comprehensive package of decisions.”

“Those consultations must not be converted into negotiations that involve only a select number of parties,” Mr Barkindo said. “The Group of 77 and China consists of 133 sovereign nations. On behalf of all of them, I must insist on a reservation for each of them at the negotiating table, which is properly set in the meeting rooms of the SBI and the SUBSTA, and the COP itself.”

On behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Vanuatu proposed that a workshop be organized by the Climate Convention secretariat before COP-6. This would enable the LDCs to discuss their special situations, specific needs and concerns related to adaptation, capacity-building and development and transfer of technology.  “To a large extent, the LDCs have been marginalized in the negotiating process,” the submission by Vanuatu noted. “It is this marginalization that has prompted the LDCs to organize themselves.”

The LDCs and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. These countries also have the lowest adaptive capacity and as a result have very much suffered from extreme weather events. Their very existence is threatened by climate change.

According to the Convention secretariat, the Lyon talks ended without achieving a ‘major breakthrough’ on a global strategy for controlling emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“While negotiators made progress here on some technical issues, the urgency of global warming is not being reflected in the pace of the talks,” said Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC).

“Key countries must start demonstrating real political leadership if we are to ensure that strong and effective action is launched to control greenhouse gas emissions,” said Zammit Cutajar. “The longer we wait to make the transition to low-emissions economies, the greater the damage from climate change will be.”

It is widely understood that the benchmark for success at The Hague is that the result must convince governments to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

At the UN’s Millennium Assembly, the Declaration adopted by the heads of state and government called on governments to ratify in time for the Protocol to enter into force by mid-2002. When this happens, developed countries will be legally committed to cutting their emissions by 5% over the next decade.

The Hague COP-6 must also establish the degree of financial and technological cooperation that developing countries can expect from developed countries. This is considered vital for ensuring that these countries are able to become more fully engaged in global action on climate change. The decisions adopted at The Hague will determine just how the Protocol will operate in practice.

These details are important because they are expected to have significant economic and environmental implications.

The Protocol will enter into force and become legally binding after it has been ratified by at least 55 Parties to the Convention, including industrialized countries representing at least 55% of the total 1990 carbon dioxide emissions from this group.

The most recent ratifications - by Guinea, Kiribati, Lesotho, and Mexico (which is the world’s 14th largest greenhouse-gas emitter) - were submitted during the Millenium Summit and bring the total up to 29, all developing countries.

On the positive side, the Lyon preparatory meetings did make important progress on a number of issues. Practical details on how to promote capacity building in developing countries and on how the so-called Clean Development Mechanism should operate were ironed out. Consensus also started to emerge on how to review information supplied by governments about their emissions.

This still leaves an enormous amount of work before all the different elements of an agreement are fully elaborated and assembled into a coherent political package. Key issues include:

*        How to define carbon “sinks” (in which, for example, new trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus offsetting emissions), which in turn will help determine the degree to which developed countries can use sink improvements to meet their Kyoto emissions targets.

*        How much credit developed countries can earn from investments in other countries through the Protocol’s three “flexible mechanisms.”

*        How the non-compliance regime should work.

*        What specific actions will be taken to address the special concerns of developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change or to economic consequences of emissions reductions by developed countries, and

*        How much financial and technological support will be channelled to developing countries.-SUNS4742