Climate change in focus

Published : Nov 08, 2002 00:00 IST

The significance of CoP-8, the international convention in New Delhi.

THE focal issue at the Eighth Conference of the Parties (CoP-8) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which gets under way in New Delhi on October 23, will be the national and international efforts to accelerate action under the Convention.

This naturally implies a discussion on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 that the U.N. expects to come into force by early 2003. The Protocol will come into force (Article 25) on the 90th day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Annex-I (industrialised) countries which accounted in total for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels of the Annex-I countries, have ratified the Protocol. This hope rests on the realisation of the Russian Federation's commitment at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to ratify the Protocol. As of date, 95 Parties have ratified the Protocol, accounting for 37.1 per cent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by Annex-I countries. Russia accounts for 17.4 per cent of the emissions. With many Annex-I Parties (including such major emitters as Canada and Australia) yet to ratify, the Protocol in all likelihood will come into force as expected even without the U.S., which accounts for 25 per cent of the CO2 emissions. The U.S. pulled out of the Protocol last year after CoP-6, arguing that the protocol commitments would be inimical to its economy.

After the Parties voiced their commitments to make the Protocol work at the CoP-6 meeting in Bonn last year, the CoP-7 meeting at Marrakesh finalised the accords towards implementing the Protocol. This included the procedures and institutions to make the Protocol operational as well as the Rulebook for the purpose. Attempts to re-engage the U.S. in emissions limitation continues to be the aim of the Parties to the Protocol.

Anticipating this, the nine-day meeting in New Delhi of the 185 Parties to the Convention will discuss ways to broaden the range of actions that governments and citizens can adopt to address issues of climate change. The Protocol mandates the developed world to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mainly CO2, to 5.12 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012. So, by the time the Protocol comes into force, the developed countries will have less than 10 years to meet their Protocol targets.

"The big question is, what practical actions these governments including those that chose to remain outside Kyoto are taking to lower their emissions," remarked Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the Convention, in a press release to mark CoP-8. And a key issue that developing countries would like CoP-8 to review the adequacy of commitments by industrialised countries in dealing with global warming and climate change.

However, some developed countries, including Denmark, Canada, Japan and Norway, are trying to up the ante by raking up the issue of future commitments to reduce GHG emissions, which will inevitably raise the issue of steps taken by developing countries to meet the challenges of climate change. The developing countries, on the other hand, would like to see concrete steps taken by the developed countries to meet the Kyoto commitments first. The issue of future commitments may become a contentious one at CoP-8.

It is not that developing countries do not wish to address the issue of their commitments at all. At a recent New Delhi consultation, held in the run-up to CoP-8, the Indian government is said to have to prepared an informal paper that prioritised a discussion on ways and means to help developing countries adapt to current as well as future climatic changes. One of the key issues that the paper focussed on was enabling funding mechanisms.

Even though three funds have been established for impact management in developing countries, very little money has so far been pledged by developed economies to build these up despite commitments many of them made at CoP-7.

The concept of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol which was originally termed as Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) under the FCCC will be a key issue at CoP-8. The mandate of the CDM is to promote sustainable development by encouraging investments in projects in developing countries that reduce or avoid GHG emissions.

The WSSD last month focussed on better access for developing countries to innovative energy technologies and the Plan of Implementation under the WSSD underscored the importance of technology transfer. Given the urgency, and since the Kyoto regime is likely to become operational soon, the UNFCCC secretariat has begun to register and accredit proposals from developed countries for CDM projects. The definitions, rules and methodologies for evaluating credits are yet to be evolved.

CoP-8 will consider a proposal from Canada, claiming emission credits for 70 mt of carbon equivalent a year, for exporting cleaner energy to the U.S. This is an attempt by Canada to get maximum mileage out of the fact that its ratification is essential for the Kyoto Protocol to come into effect. But this could become a contentious issue not only because the U.S. is an Annex-I Party but also because it has pulled out of the Protocol.

Another key item is the review of national communications containing emissions and GHG inventories. According to a report to be considered at CoP-8, data in 2000 reveal that GHG emissions from the richest (essentially those of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD) countries have risen by 8.4 per cent since 1990.

However, this figure does not include sequestration by "carbon sinks" such as afforestation. This concept itself is yet to be properly quantified for assessing trends and will be a topic at CoP-8. Meanwhile, emissions from economies in transition declined by 38 per cent as a consequence of economic restructuring.

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