Old Rivalries Threaten to Undermine Climate Talks

By Singy Hanyona

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 6, 2001 (ENS) - Climate negotiators from around the world are just past the midpoint of their two week meeting to hammer out the finer points of keeping 38 industrialized nations from emitting greenhouse gases linked to gobal warming. They are running into the same old rivalries between industrialized and developing countries, corporate and green groups that have plagued attempts to agree since the Kyoto Protocol was written in 1997.


Mohamed Elyazghi is presiding over the talks in Marrakech. He is Morocco's Minister of Territory Planning, Urban Management, Housing, and Environment. (All photos courtesy IISD/ENB-Leila Mead)
Parties to the protocol, part of the United Nations framework climate change treaty, have convened at the Congress de Palais to enshrine in legal texts the political agreement reached in Bonn at the most recent talks in July.

At the end of the two week period, the 7th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP-7) is poised to adopt these legal texts as Decisions. These Decisions will be the final signal for countries that are Parties to the protocol to start their ratification and implementation process.

Official delegates are working towards a final rulebook outlining precisely how emissions of the six gases will be limited and what consequences violators would face. They have been meeting in negotiating and drafting groups on the mechanisms, compliance and communication, going over the technical points.

Today, European environment ministers met in Marrakech for urgent talks aimed at keeping the delegates on track for the resolution of sticking points. The European Union, whose 15 member countries face an average seven percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions, is a strong supporter of the protocol.

European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom leads the European Union delegation jointly with the Belgian EU Presidency. She is concerned that some countries might turn away from the political understanding reached in Bonn.

"I am afraid that the talks in Marrakech may again not be easy," she said. "There are a host of technical issues that need to be addressed, some of which have political implications. Some Parties may also be tempted to backtrack from decisions taken in Bonn. We would open a Pandora's box if we were to do so, and no citizen of any country would understand a failure in Marrakech."

A small United States delegation is present to observe the talks, but President George W. Bush decided not to submit the protocol to the Senate for ratification in March, soon after he took office. Calling the protocol "fatally flawed," Bush said it is unfair because the emissions of populous developing nations such as China, India and Brazil are not covered in this phase of the process.


Delegates in plenary session at the Congress de Palais
Ministers from around the world are due to meet formally on Wednesday for high level negotiations on the final drafts. But proposals from the Japanese, Australia, Canada and Russian delegates threaten to weaken the agreement that governments signed in Bonn.

Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said over the weekend that the treaty does not need legally binding consequences. This position undermines the desire for a robust enforcement regime, demostrated in Bonn.

Friends of the Earth International Climate Campaigner Kate Hampton said without a strong enforcement system, the Kyoto Protocol will not be worth the paper it is written on. “EU ministers must be clear that the text on the table now is not what they intended to do in Bonn. The agreement has been watered down enough already,” she said.

In a joint press briefing here, a Climate Coalition of environmental groups fighting for environmental rights and equality, criticized the agenda of corporate organizations. The coalition says that instead of addressing the causes of global warming and the inequalities between North and South, developed nations have now taken over the Kyoto Process.


Yin Shao Loong of the Third World Network at a media briefing
Yin Shao Loong of the Third World Network said, “They are spearheaded by Canada, Japan, Russia and Australia. They have set their delegations the task of paving the way for business interests to seize a brand new market, in the name of greenhouse gas emissions trading.”

“By succumbing to the corporate agenda, the Kyoto Protocol is failing to achieve climate justice,” said Amit Srivasta of Corporate Watch.

These activists were not swayed by the World Bank's promise of a US$145 million Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), http://www.prototypecarbonfund.org/ for developing countries to adapt to climate impacts and develop emissions reducing technologies.

"Alleviating the crippling effects of climate change on poorer countries will require private as well as public investment," says Ian Johnson, the World Bank's vice president for environmentally and socially sustainable development.


Tuiloma Neroni Slade, co-chair of the Compliance Group, is from Samoa, a Pacific island nation that could experience severe impacts of rising sea levels.
"Efficient market based mechanisms are crucial to lowering the costs of climate change mitigation and to channeling private capital to cleaner technologies and more socially and environmentally sustainable development in our client countries," Johnson said. "The PCF demonstrates the Bank's commitment to catalyze the development of these market mechanisms in order to help developing countries benefit from carbon finance."

The PFC projects, targeting Uganda, Chile and Latvia, are aimed at alleviating the crippling effects of climate change on poorer countries. They have been validated in accordance with the emerging rules of the protocol, and the Bank says they establish that "selling emission reductions can make marginal energy and waste management projects in developing countries financially attractive."

Ugandan Commissioner for Meteorology, Bwango Apuuli, said poorer countries will need private as well and public investment to handle the effects of climate change. “It is the first ever deal in Africa. It is a unique project and our intention is to get the best deal possible from the fund,” said Apuuli, who is also permanent representative of Uganda with the World Meteorological Organization.

Under this private-public fund, the World Bank will buy carbon dioxide emission reductions for up to US$3.9 million over 15 to 20 years.

Ken Newcombe, manager of the Prototype Carbon Fund, says the project will contribute to sustainable development. “The project will bring reliable electric energy to a region of Uganda that is experiencing strong economic growth,” he said.

This is in line with the Uganda West Nile Electrification Project, a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project negotiated in Africa. The project has already been allocated US$20 million for the construction of two small hydropower stations, diesel backup facilities and rehabilitation of the grid.


Girls in the Moroccan Youth delegation
Under the Kyoto Protocol there is an element of flexibility in order to allow countries to reach their emissions objectives. The 38 developed countries whose emissions are governed by the protocol (Annex I countries) can exchange carbon credits with developing countries.

An industrialized country could invest in a wind farm in a developing nation that had intended to construct a coal fired power station. The investment contributes to the fight against global warming and allows the industrialized country to acquire emission credits.

In recognition of their contributions to bringing the climate talks to this stage, Climate Business e-Awards-2001 were made to Jan Pronk, Dutch Environment Minister and Masamitsu Sakai, President of Ricoh Corporation of Japan.


Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk presided over the Sixth Conference of Parties that achieved the Bonn agreement. Here he addresses the meeting in Marrakech.
Announcing the awards during a prize ceremony president of the U.S Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Michael said outgoing COP president Pronk received the award for his untiring efforts to secure July’s landmark Bonn agreement on the protocol. “He negotiated day and night and used formal and informal channels to build bridges and understanding,” Marvin said.

Sakai was honored for his role in concluding the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Ricoh Corporation of Japan is a global manufacturer of office automation equipment and got the award for improving energy efficiency and management.

The awards are presented by the European and U.S Business Councils for Sustainable Energy, which are promoting technologies to solve global warming. The winners receive a glass trophy containing a blue letter 'e' standing for the five ‘e’s of “energy, emissions, environment, efficiency and economy.”

But awards aside, the environmental problems of a warming planet are real. Greenpeace charged that the UN Climate Convention’s spirit of environmental integrity and common sense has already been diluted, and that not enough attention is being focused on the rising sea levels and melting ice caps that are today's evidence of climate change.

A Greenpeace team on Mount Kilimanjaro spoke with journalists covering the climate negotiations in Marrakech live via a video conference. Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the few places in the world where ice and snow can be found on the equator, could lose its entire ice field by 2015 because of climate change, said Greenpeace campaigner Joris Thijssen, on Kilimanjaro.


Melting glacier near the summit of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
"Russia, Australia, Japan and Canada are attempting to ensure that the final details of the Kyoto Protocol are as weak as possible, to protect their greenhouse gas polluting industries," said Thijssen. "But this is the price we pay if climate change is allowed to go unchecked - here in Africa we will not only lose glaciers, but will face more extreme droughts and floods, widespread agriculture loses, and increased infectious diseases, all of which are felt hardest by people in developing nations."

EU Environment Commissioner Wallstrom says the time for talking is over. "Now the time has come to move from words to deeds," she said today. "As soon as the ink is dry on the Decisions we take in Marrakech, each and everyone of us must turn our attention to securing swift ratification of the Protocol and fulfilment of its emission reduction objectives."

The Kyoto Protocol will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent of the nations responsible for at least 55 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990.

The countries that ratify must reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the five year period 2008 to 2012.