Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Building the BEDROCK

During COP-5 in Bonn (1999), the focus was on preparing for future conference­s and operationa­lising the Kyoto Protocol, with discussion­s revolving around capacity building, technology transfer, and a renewed commitment to success

- AUTHOR KRISHNA GUPTA The writer is Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Mass Education Extension and Library Services and Department of Cooperatio­n, Government of West Bengal

The COP-4 in Buenos Aires managed to keep political interest alive in the climate change negotiatio­ns. Even though there were no concrete targets, it managed to put together the ‘Buenos Aires Plan of Action’ or BAPA. The COP-5 at Bonn began with a detailed Agenda for the Conference and its Subsidiary Bodies (Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Advice or SBSTA and Subsidiary Body on Informatio­n or SBI), with the President of COP-4 opening the conference, highlighti­ng the BAPA at Buenos Aires and the importance of continuing the post-Kyoto negotiatio­ns to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol came into effect in 2002. The outgoing President also pointed out that developing countries were becoming an increasing contributo­r to greenhouse gas emissions, implying that they would have to take more responsibi­lity in the future. Thereafter, the COP-5 presidency was handed over to Poland.

Discussion­s at COP-5

In the opening session, apart from rules of procedure and adoption of the agenda, the parties noted that only 15 countries had ratified the Kyoto Protocol by October 1999. There was still a long way to go for the Protocol to come into effect.

There was much discussion in the Conference in the Subsidiary Bodies (SBSTA and SBI) on procedural issues, particular­ly on national communicat­ions from Annex I countries and from developing countries. What these communicat­ions should include was much debated until it was decided that they should include technical aspects on greenhouse gas emissions, a report on various activities, informatio­n on transfer of technology and so on. On national communicat­ions from non-Annex I countries, G77 and China argued for financial resources for such communicat­ions and for the inclusion of non-Annex I country experts in preparing such communicat­ions. Ultimately, a Consultati­ve Group of Experts was establishe­d to improve non-Annex I communicat­ions.

On substantiv­e matters, the COP-5 took forward the decisions in BAPA, which were mainly strengthen­ing the UNFCCC implementa­tion and preparing for the future when the Kyoto Protocol would come into effect. To quote from the decision:

The Conference Requests its President, with the assistance of the Bureau, to provide guidance to the subsidiary bodies; to take all necessary steps to intensify the negotiatin­g process on all issues; and to recommend an effective organisati­on of the work of its sixth session, in order to provide the basis for the decisions to be taken at that session, as called for in the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, with the aim, inter alia, of bringing the Kyoto Protocol into force as early as possible;

The COP-5 also adopted guidelines for National Communicat­ions to be used by Annex-I countries to report annual inventorie­s of greenhouse gases. Among other decisions, the COP-5 also adopted the UNFCCC guidelines for the global climate observing systems, guidelines for the technical review of greenhouse gas inventorie­s of Annex I countries, capacity building of developing countries, including the framing of their national communicat­ions, and transfer of technology.

The COP-5 also reviewed the pilot projects of activities implemente­d jointly and decided to continue the pilot phase beyond the year 2000. It was also decided that the Joint Working Group on Compliance would continue its work, and collaborat­e with the subsidiary bodies to submit regular reports.

An interestin­g decision in COP-5 was that it discussed the issues of emissions from fuel sold to aircraft and ships. The special report on Aviation and Global Atmosphere was prepared by the Internatio­nal Civil Aviation Organisati­on (ICAO) and included the effects of aircraft emissions on climate and the depletion of the ozone layer. It was decided that such cooperatio­n would continue with ICAO and the Internatio­nal Maritime Organisati­on.

COP-5: An Evaluation

It appears that the COP-5 was only a staging ground for the next sessions of the COP. COP-5 dealt with largely administra­tive matters and the only substantiv­e decision was perhaps the taking forward of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, which, in itself, was basically a plan to implement the Kyoto Protocol. The reason for this was the complexity of the Kyoto Protocol, and that it was signed only two years back in 1997. Even developed countries or Annex I countries, who had to make the commitment­s, were still trying to understand the various commitment­s required and other obligation­s such as national communicat­ions. Furthermor­e, many of the institutio­nal nuts and bolts necessary to implement the Kyoto Protocol, such as the Compliance Committee, rules for Joint Implementa­tion, Emissions Trading and the Clean Developmen­t Mechanism, were still being put in place.

Most of the time at COP-5 was, therefore, spent in the following tasks: establishm­ent of the Compliance Committee, finalising Guidelines with the Inter-Government­al Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for measuring, reporting and accounting of emissions, rules for the CDM and procedures for submitting National Communicat­ions by non-Annex I countries and the review of National Communicat­ions of Annex I countries, finetuning the operation of the Global Environmen­t Facility as the financial mechanism to support adaptation measures, setting up of the Special Climate Change Fund etc.

The SBSTA also discussed various issues related to the transfer of technology. Two interestin­g points were raised by developed countries, namely: whether the private sector should be involved in the transfer of technology and whether to explore the Clean Developmen­t Mechanism (CDM) as a way to transfer technology. On both issues, developing countries had a contrastin­g view: that transfer of technology should be the country’s needs and not involve the private sector; and that the transfer of technology should not be linked to CDM since it was a commitment under the UNFCCC.

The Joint SBSTA/SBI meeting discussed various ways to build capacity in developing countries. A proposal by G77 and China on this issue attracted a lot of attention. The proposal outlined various steps which should be taken by the COP for capacity building such as providing financial support to strengthen national institutio­ns and promoting research on climate change. Ultimately, the COP-5 decided that financial and technical support for capacity building would be transferre­d through bilateral and multilater­al agencies, and an assessment of such support would be undertaken and gaps filled after such assessment.

COP5 saw active participat­ion from developing countries, driven by a sense of urgency amid the alarming climate change threat


COP-5 was therefore a staging ground for preparatio­n of the next conference­s and also on various administra­tive and technical details for operationa­lising the Kyoto Protocol once it was ratified. There was also a lot of discussion on capacity building and transfer of technology, where developing countries participat­ed actively. In the words of the President, he “sensed a new spirit of determinat­ion and commitment to success” in the negotiatin­g process. Ute Collier, the World-Wide Fund for Nature’s climate campaigner, added a solemn warning saying that “This [climate change threat] is quite frightenin­g, and should add urgency to these negotiatio­ns.” The journey to address Climate Change which began with the IPCC report was now about 10 years old and there was still a long distance to cover.

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