Climate Change Officials Edge Closer to Agreement

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, December 7, 2000 (ENS) - Two days of informal climate talks have narrowed the gap between the European Union and other industrialized nations on precisely how to limit the emission of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The meeting of officials was called in an attempt to salvage points of agreement from the collapse two weeks ago of the 6th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-6) in The Hague.

Canada hosted officials from the European Union (European Community, France, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom) and the Umbrella Group (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, United States) to continue discussion regarding international climate change negotiations.


COP-6 president Jan Pronk looks grim as talks break down November 25. (Photo courtesy Leila Mead/IISD)
The differences in the positions of these two groups of countries prevented a consensus from emerging at COP-6.

In a joint statement tonight the negotiators said, "Among the issues discussed were the role of domestic action, forests and farmlands, and the compliance regime under the Kyoto Protocol. Though much remains to be done, progress was made in clarifying issues and resolving technical differences among Parties." Negotiators will now report to the political level in capitals so that next steps can be decided.

Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said, "Discussions in Ottawa demonstrated that there is still significant commitment and interest in gaining consensus on this critical global environmental issue. These talks will help us reach a decision on whether ministers will meet in the near future."

The European Union summit which opened today in Nice, France, will discuss the results of the Ottawa talks and attempt to rescue the 1997 Kyoto agreement, which was meant to begin the fightback against the threat of global warming.

If the EU summit reaches agreement, a ministerial meeting could be arranged in Oslo next week to formulate a political document. If the Nice summit fails to approve the outcome of the Ottawa talks, EU environment ministers will meet in Luxembourg on December 18 and 19.


Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
"These discussions have clearly demonstrated that all countries recognize the importance of the task before us, and we share a common desire to clearly define rules so that we can meet our Kyoto targets," Anderson said.

For its part, Canada is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Particularly in the North, ecosystems and communities are being affected. Anderson said this awareness "presses Canada" into taking action.

Canada remains committed to achieving the majority of its reductions through domestic action, a position which it shares with the European Union.

The Umbrella Group, however, supports vigorous emissions trading and two other mechanisms - joint implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism - which allow industrialized countries to earn credits against their emissions limits for building facilities or planting forests in developing countries while continuing to emit greenhouse gases at home.


An image of global temperature in the year 2000 (Image courtesy Hadley Centre, UK Meteorological Office)
Anderson said that Canada has taken on "a challenging target" under the Kyoto Protocol - a reduction of 26 percent in our greenhouse gas emissions from business as usual by the time the first Kyoto commitment period comes into effect from 2008 to 2012.

The 39 industrialized countries governed by the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the United Nations climate change treaty, must reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the period 2008 to 2012.


An image of global temperature in the year 2050 if greenhouse gases are not limited (Image courtesy Hadley Centre, UK Meteorological Office)
The protocol has been signed by all of the 39 countries, but none of them has ratified it. These talks are aimed at working out the technical details to prepare for ratification. The Kyoto Protocol will only enter into force when 55 percent of the countries that emit a combined total of 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gases have ratified it.

This informal meeting in Ottawa took place in response to the request made by Dutch environment minister and COP-6 president Jan Pronk at the end of the conference in The Hague. Pronk urged Parties to continue to meet in order to promote a global consensus when COP-6 reconvenes, probably in the late spring of 2001.