Governments urged not to tinker with Kyoto targets

Member-countries, parties to the UN Climate Change convention and the Kyoto protocol were urged on 11 September at their preparatory talks in Lyon, not to fall into the temptation of renegotiating the Kyoto Protocol.

by Someshwar Singh

Geneva, 12 Sep 2000 -- Member-countries, parties to the UN Climate Change convention and the Kyoto protocol were urged Monday not to fall into the temptation of renegotiating the Kyoto Protocol.

Michael Zammit-Cutajar, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was speaking at the opening meeting of the intergovernmental negotiators, at their preparatory talks in Lyon, France, on 11 September, for the next Conference of Parties (COP-6) to be held at the Hague.

Following on from the closed door meetings of the previous week, the second part of the Lyon talks, was opened by the French Prime Minister, Mr Lionel Jospin. Among the other top-level dignitaries at the meeting were the French environment minister, Dominique Voynet, the Dutch environment minister, Jan Pronk (and President-designate for COP 6), the EU Commissioner for Environment, Margot Wallstrom, as well as the Mayor of Lyon, Raymond Barre.

Addressing the preparatory meeting, Michael Zammit Cutajar, the Executive Secretary told the delegates: “The passage of time since Kyoto is weighing on the Protocol negotiations. Economic trends since then have made certain emission targets more difficult than they seemed in 1997. And the time to put in place the legislation, the institutions and the investments necessary to shoot for these targets is becoming uncomfortably short.”

“These factors have given rise to calls from outside observers to re-negotiate the targets or the timetables - or both - for the Protocol’s first commitment period,” he said. “In my view, any attempt to re-negotiate part of the Kyoto deal would lead to the whole deal breaking down. It would take years to start building again. Work must go ahead within the parameters set in Kyoto.”

A related risk, Mr Cutajar pointed out, was that pressure from negotiators to maximize the “easy” means of achieving the targets may devalue the standards on which the credibility of the Protocol depends.  “The Protocol is a building block of a new international regime. By setting targets and thus creating scarcity value, it will generate potentially important new markets. Economic actors will not be attracted, however, if the targets are achieved by window dressing.”

This was not to propose a regime that was so purist as to deter participation, he added. “The learning curve must be recognized. So must national circumstances. But I believe that these can be factored into the Protocol in a manner that preserves its integrity from the start - even if certain key elements of the system, such as compliance, only take shape fully in the second commitment period.”

As the deadline for COP 6 approaches (13-24 November), its two political challenges have become clearer. Developing countries need tangible support for their capacities to respond to climate change, recognition of their diverse forms of vulnerability and incentives to shift their economic growth on to climate-friendly paths.

On the other hand, the Kyoto Protocol needs a decisive push towards its early realization - with all major industrialized economies on board.  The declaration of the Millennium Summit supports this response to climate change and encourages the entry into force of the Protocol by 2002.

“I believe that the North-South axis of negotiation offers scope for initial agreements here in Lyon,” said Mr Cutajar. “The area of capacity building is one that could give a positive signal of progress.”

On the Protocol axis, technical complexities demand more time to be sorted out and pieced together, he suggested. “Nevertheless, Lyon provides an occasion to clarify options that will shape the content of subsequent negotiations. Political choices among such options are particularly urgent in the area of sinks.”

Jan Szyszko, State Secretary from Poland and President of the 5th Conference of the Parties of the Climate Change Convention, said that the informal talks over the past week had produced “new and improved negotiating texts”. But it was essential that the negotiations be intensified as time was short and many, often difficult issues remained, he added.

Prime Minister Jospin expressed the firm commitment of France, currently holding the presidency of the European Union, to work towards the early ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

France has adopted a comprehensive national programme aimed at boosting the development of renewable energies, and in July, adopted the necessary legislation authorizing the government to ratify the Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol (1997) will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 55 Parties to the Convention, including developed countries and those with economies in transition representing at least 55% of the total of 1990 carbon dioxide emissions from this group. So far, 83 governments and the European Community have signed the Protocol but only 23 countries, all developing, have ratified.

The United States accounts for 36.1% of carbon dioxide emissions, the European Union for 24.2%, and Russia for 17.4 percent.-SUNS4738

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