On 10 November, the COP7 talks were finally declared a success, following obstruction by Russia, essential for any successful implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (see related story). In the end, Russian participation was guaranteed by delegates accepting its demands that its forests soak up some 33 million metric tonnes of carbon per year, instead of the 17 it was allowed at the COP6 talks in Bonn. In a win-win situation, Russia is also now permitted to sell its considerable excess energy credits – its emissions are already 30% below 1990 levels – to Japan, which will now not face such a struggle to meet its own target of 6% emissions reductions.

The final ‘rulebook’ agreed upon, which translated all the provisions made in July’s political agreement (see related story) into legal texts, looks very similar to what was decided in Bonn, with all parties now confident that the package “will be sufficient for the timely ratification of the Kyoto Protocol”, according to the European Union. To date, however, the only industrialised nation to fully ratify Kyoto is Romania but many nations and the European Union are expected to bring the Protocol into force by the World Summit for Sustainable Development in September 2002 (see related story).

A solid compliance system with defined rules has been established that will be put in place after entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. The eligibility of countries to participate in emissions trading only after complying with emissions targets was preserved from Bonn, which satisfied the EU, China and the G77 group of developing nations, with the only point left unresolved being whether these penalties would be “legally binding as a matter of international law”. The next round of talks, which will not take place for another year, will then decide on the legal form of the procedures and mechanisms relating to compliance.

The final text also specifies how to measure emissions and reductions and the extent to which carbon ‘sinks’ can be counted towards Kyoto targets. Domestic ‘sink’ credits must be reported annually and have a special classification, guaranteeing transparency, but the quality of reporting on domestic ‘sinks’ is not an eligibility criterion. Sinks projects in developing countries will start soon but will be covered by special rules, the terms of reference for which will be defined at a workshop to be held before the next set of negotiations in 2002. Rules and modalities on the Kyoto Mechanisms were decided that would allow the prompt start of the Clean Development Mechanism, which will promote sustainable development by encouraging investments in projects in developing nations that reduce or avoid emissions, with developed nations then receiving credit against their emissions targets under these ‘Joint Implementation’ projects. International emissions trading can also now start as from 2008.

The agreement was hailed by senior politicians and more cautiously by environmental NGOs worldwide. Britain’s Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said that “this is the first multinational environment agreement with teeth, and it will make an enormous difference in reducing greenhouse emissions”, while French Environment Minister Yves Cochet commented that there was “agreement on everything by everyone”. “After several years of tough negotiation, the institutions and detailed procedures of the Kyoto Protocol are now in place,” said Michael Zammit Cutajar, the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change chief. “The next step is to test their effectiveness in overseeing the 5% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries over the next decade.”

“The Kyoto Protocol is saved,” trumpeted Olivier Deleuze, head of the EU delegation. “We have been able to remove initial reluctance by certain countries to recognise and preserve the Bonn agreement…The success at the Conference in Marrakech demonstrates that, despite the tragic events of 11 September, the international community is able to produce positive responses to global challenges. It provides evidence of the confidence of citizens and political leaders in the capacity of all countries to continue to work together to build a more sustainable future.”

Friends of the Earth gave a cautious welcome to the agreement adopted in Marrakech. Governments have no choice but to ratify the Kyoto Protocol – the science is stark – drastic future cuts in emissions are vital to prevent dangerous climate change and this agreement is only the beginning,” commented Kate Hampton, Friends of the Earth International’s Climate Coordinator.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie