Thrust and Parry

What delegates wrangled about in CoP-8, issue by issue

Last Updated: Sunday 28 June 2015

Thrust and Parry

Will CDM turn out to be yet an #1 Adequacy of commitments/developing country commitments
The 1992 UNFCCC text calls for a review of how adequately industrialised countries are dealing with climate change. This provision was inserted to address the concerns of (primarily G-77) countries that felt the commitments asked of industrialised countries were insufficient. The issue has always led to controversy, and much ducking under the negotiating table. For the adequacy question is semantically tricky: does inadequacy imply industrialised countries have failed to fulfil their commitments? Or should the adequacy question be interpreted as opening up discussion on commitments for developing countries?

The review was to take place in 1998, but was bundled out of sight. According to the rules, an resolved issue automatically passes on to the next round of negotiations for discussions. This ensured the hidden bundle rolled on, passing untouched through each conference since 1998.

Till it reached CoP-8. Adequately enough for developed countries, discussions on the issue were again postponed. Inadequately for developing countries, informal discussions continued on their future commitments.

The EU was particularly keen that developing countries start thinking on how to share the emissions burden after 2012 (when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end). Australia was also blunt: "What was needed was a 50-60 per cent reduction by the end of the century, and for this all countries need to take action, including developing countries."

On the other hand, developing countries insisted that future commitments were irrelevant to their interests. Industrialised countries had to first fulfill their existing obligations. "They (industrialised countries) have increased emissions. Now they want us to join them. Join in what - in failing commitments? No, we want to meet commitments if we have any," said Saudi Arabia. A group of developing countries mainly consisting of small island states wanted to initiate a process to include developing countries.

Throughout CoP-8, industrialised countries kept up intense pressure, especially in the round table discussions during the high-level segment. But developed countries stood their ground, ensuring that the issue wasn't mentioned in the Delhi Declaration.

#2 National communications by developing countries
Formulating guidelines to help developing countries prepare their national inventory of emissions was a sticky issue at CoP-8. It was linked to discussion on commitments by developing countries to reduce emissions in future. Industrialised countries wanted more detailed guidelines. But developing countries were wary that stringent guidelines would force them to provide data on GHG emissions, which could then be used to force commitments on them.

Developing countries have to submit a report on what they are doing, or plan to do, to implement UNFCCC. They are required to provide a national inventory of emissions from different sources like power plants and industries, and greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere by sinks. Any initiative that helps to adapt adverse climate change, even raising public awareness about climate change, also forms a part of the report. After receiving funding from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), such a report should be ready within three years.

So far, 85 developing countries have submitted these inventories. In 1996, at CoP-2, a set of guidelines was drafted to prepare these reports. These were reviewed at CoP-8. After protracted talks on the issue in informal groups, which continued for long hours almost everyday in the second week, a decision was adopted on the last day of the conference. The final text reflected developing countries' concerns.

In some instances, implementing improved guidelines would need increased funding. GEF noted that developing local emission factors (to calculate emissions from industrial activity, for example) and vulnerability and adaptation assessments, as mentioned in the new set of guidelines, would need a lot more money.

#3 Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
The CDM executive board set up at CoP-7 presented its report to the conference. This formed the basis of discussions. The board simplified rules to implement small-scale projects. Not fully developed, the rules aimed to reduce the transaction cost involved in such projects. A small-scale project would not have to submit as detailed a project design document as a big one. For projects other than small-scale, a format for project design document was already complete. Detailed definitions of small-scale projects under different categories - such as renewable energy, energy efficiency improvement - were evolved. An indicative list of projects was drawn out.

The board set different registration fees for different projects, depending on the amount of reductions achieved. "This fee will crucially determine costs. It (the board) now suggests a tiered registration fee depending on project size, still prohibitive at US $5,000 for the smallest category," Axel Michaelowa, Hamburg Institute of International Economics points out. "Better to waive the fee completely for projects up to 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent reductions per annum and charge slightly higher for large projects."

As per rules, an operational entity (OE), responsible for validating and registering projects, as also verifying and certifying that emission reduction had indeed occurred, would have to pay a fee of US $15,000 to get the OE status. The board decided that an OE from a developing country could pay 50 per cent of this non-reimbursable fee at the time of application. The remaining 50 per cent would have to be paid when accreditation was received. India wanted a 'real' concession for developing countries' OEs. Such a high fee effectively meant that not many non-profit organisations from the South would be able to participate in the process.

#4 LULUCF under CDM
Countries discussed the issue of sinks under CDM in a contact group. Definitions of afforestation and reforestation, and rules governing these activities under CDM and calculating emission removals, were left to be developed at CoP-9. At CoP-7, it was decided that for the first commitment period, reforestation activities would be limited to reforestation occurring on those lands that did not contain forest as on December 31, 1989. But at CoP-8, Canada tried to change that definition and proposed that the reference date be advanced. It argued that this would increase land available for reforestation projects.

Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities, like afforestation and reforestation, are a cheaper way of meeting Kyoto commitments. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, acting as a sink. Planting trees or managing forests increases the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, uncertainties abound and it is quite difficult to calculate such removals by sinks.

Countries could not arrive at a consensus on any of the matters discussed - definitions, the temporary nature of sinks; how to ensure that the activity was additional to what would have happened in the absence of the Kyoto Protocol; how to calculate emissions caused indirectly due to the LULUCF activity; how to assess socio-economic and environmental impacts of the activity; and project lifetime.

#5 Controversy on TAR

#6 Adaptation - agreement on funds
At CoP-6 bis, three new funds - a special climate change fund and a least developed countries fund under the convention, and an adaptation fund under the Kyoto Protocol - were established to help the South in tiding over climate mitigation costs. GEF, the main funding channel for climate change projects in developing countries, was to operate all three. Though CoP-8 was dominated by developing countries' concern for adaptation, hardly any progress was made on this issue.

CoP-8 failed to initiate/operationalise the special climate change fund, and a decision would now be taken at the next annual conference in Italy in December 2003. Countries like Norway, Canada, Japan and the EU wanted more time to prioritise activities to be funded through this mechanism. The fund was established to finance projects relating to capacity building, adaptation, technology transfer, and economic diversification.

Talks on the LDC fund were, however, more successful. Countries reached agreement on speedy release and disbursement. It was also decided to organise four regional workshops to enable LDCs to communicate their urgent and immediate needs for adapting to climate change.

At CoP-6 bis, the EU, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand had pledged US $410 million per year (starting 2005) towards the new funds. But no explanation followed on who with pay how much and when. Now these countries have started saying that the money provided through GEF and other bilateral and multilateral channels should also be considered a part of this amount.

The adaptation fund, to be funded by a levy on CDM proceeds, is not likely to take off before the first commitment period when CDM proceeds become available.

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