Stalling tactics defeated for Kyoto climate change compliance system

Delegates from countries who signed the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change have been debating how to measure countries' compliance with CO2 reduction targets and how to penalise any infractions.

The fifth meeting (see related story) of the Contracting Parties of the Kyoto Protocol (COP 5) offered delegates of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on compliance the chance to look at proposed structures for a Kyoto compliance body and to determine how quickly the compliance system will be up and running.

With many countries and environmental organisations clinging to the hope that the Kyoto Protocol will be ratified by 2002, when the Rio +10 summit will be held, a compliance system is a pressing requirement. However, the US has tempered hopes for ratification in 2002 by refusing to give a specific year as a target. The country’s representatives, instead, refer to their desire to see Kyoto brought into force as early as possible.

Many delegates expressed the wish to see the JWG press on with its work after COP 5 in an effort to complete it by the time COP 6 takes place, in the Netherlands at the end of next year. Others, including representatives from Saudi Arabia, China and Nigeria, sought to slow down progress and avoid any requirement for a compliance system to be presented to COP 6.

In the end, urgency won out and the JWG passed a draft decision directing it to report on compliance to COP 6. The aim is to set the stage for adoption of a Kyoto compliance system at COP 6.

In addition to debating the speed with which it will work, the JWG discussed 5 proposed compliance systems. They were proposed by the US, Japan, the EU, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Australia. Each system offered ways for CO2 emission reductions to be confirmed and, if assessment shows a failure to meet targets, ways to negotiate for improvement and, if necessary, to invoke penalties. Several delegates expressed a desire for the consequences of failure in meeting CO2 targets to be known by countries in advance, so that the consequences act as possible deterrents. Other delegates were concerned about what type of penalties would be imposed, with Switzerland, Brazil and Iran supporting financial penalties only as a last resort.

Some countries’ delegates sought to replace the term currently used to describe the measures that will be taken if countries fail to meet CO2 targets, “binding consequences”, to something more benign. Japan, Australia and the US suggested “outcome”. No change was made.

COP 5 ends with the majority of the work on the creation of a Kyoto compliance system still to be done, but with an ambitious goal to present COP 6 with a plan to debate and vote on.

See other stories in the World section of this edition of edie for further information on decisions taken at COP 5.

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