Governments Agree on Final Climate Protocol Rulebook

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 10, 2001 (ENS) - They negotiated the terms of a new climate change agreement through the night, and at dawn the exhausted delegates achieved success. In a plenary session held at six this morning, government officials signed off on a deal that finalizes the terms for implementing the Kyoto Protocol.

With the United States watching from the sidelines, environment ministers and senior officials from 171 countries agreed to specific legally binding rules for enforcing the protocol, signed in December 1997 in an effort to limit six greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The Marrakech conference, which is the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP-7), was attended some 4,500 participants. The agreement opens the way to widespread ratification by governments and the protocol’s early entry into force.

“After several years of tough negotiation, the institutions and detailed procedures of the Kyoto Protocol are now in place. The next step is to test their effectiveness in overseeing the five-percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries over the next decade,” said Michael Zammit Cutajar, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), of which the protocol is a part.


Retiring UNFCCC Executive Secretary Michael Zammit-Cutajar (left) congratulates Moroccan Environment Minister and COP-7 President Mohamed Elyazghi on a successful round of negotiations. (Photos courtesy IISD/ENB-Leila Mead)
"The Marrakech results send a clear signal to business, local governments and the general public that climate friendly products, services, and activities will be rewarded by consumers and national policies alike,” said Zammit Cutajar, who after 10 years in his post will be stepping down at the end of the year.

Under the protocol, 38 industrialized nations have agreed to cut their emissions of six greenhouse gases the most abundant of which is carbon dioxide. Thirty-nine nations were to have been governed by the original agreement signed in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, but the Bush administration in March said that the United States would not ratify the protocol.

The finalized Kyoto Protocol rulebook specifies how to measure emissions and reductions. It delineates the extent to which carbon dioxide absorbed by carbon sinks such as forests can be counted towards the legally binding emissions targets.

The deal sets forth the rules governing how the joint implementation and emissions trading systems will work, and the rules for ensuring compliance with commitments. The 38 countries governed by the protocol must reduce emissions of carbon dioxide to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the five year period 2008 to 2012. The accord contains rules on a compliance regime with enforceable and binding consequences for countries that do not meet their commitments to limit emissions.


Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson (second from left) emerges from an overnight negotiating session.
Marking the transition out of the negotiating stage to an operational regime, the conference elected 15 members to the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This will ensure a prompt start to the CDM, whose mandate is to promote sustainable development by encouraging investments in projects in developing countries that reduce or avoid emissions. Developed countries then receive credit against their Kyoto targets for emissions avoided by these projects.

Rules were finalized for Joint Implementation projects under which industrialized countries will earn carbon credits by investing in cleaner technologies in each other's countries.

Ministers completed the final details of the package for reporting and reviewing countries' inventories of greenhouse gases, setting in place a system based on methods set forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of climate scientists from around the world.


Key COP-7 delegates confer. (From left: Cutajar; Iranian Ambassador Bagher Asadi, G-77/China delegation leader; South African Environment Minister Mohamed Valli Moosa; EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom.
Today's agreement formalizes the pledge made at the last round of climate talks in Bonn channeling an additional euro 450 million annually to developing countries from 2005.

"The phoenix of the Kyoto Protocol has risen in Marrakech," said Jennifer Morgan, director of WWF's Climate Change Campaign. "There can be no further excuse for governments to delay taking the next step of ratifying the treaty before next September's Johannesburg Summit."

WWF's focus will now shift to widening business and public involvement in measures that achieve Kyoto's emission reduction goals, placing the emphasis on an enormous range of a string of cost effective domestic actions, said Morgan.

Concerned about the weaknesses of the protocol, environmental groups in Marrakech pledged to prevent damaging projects from going ahead that exploit loopholes already written into the document.

Despite its weaknesses, agreement on the operational details for the protocol was widely seen as an essential prerequisite for its ratification and entry into force.

The 1997 Kyoto 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 percent of the total 1990 carbon dioxide emissions from this group.


European Union Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom tired from constant negotiating. The EU stood firm on the urgent need to finalize a strong, binding protocol.
So far, 40 countries have ratified, including two industrialized countries - Romania and the Czech Republic. New Zealand, previously a critic of key aspects of the treaty, was among countries announcing in Marrakech that it would ratify the treaty.

Many governments have called for the protocol's entry into force to take place in 2002 before the World Summit on Sustainable Development set for September in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Delegates adopted the Marrakech Ministerial Declaration as an input into the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Declaration emphasizes the contribution that action on climate change can make to sustainable development and calls for capacity building, technology innovation, and cooperation with the biodiversity and desertification conventions.

The Eighth Conference of Parties, COP-8, will be held from October 23 to 1 November 1, 2002. India has offered to be the host.