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Global Climate Change:
Adequacy of Commitments
Wayne A. Morrissey
October 25, 1996
The second session of the Conference of Parties (COP-2) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) convened July 8-19, 1996, in Geneva, Switzerland. On July 18, 1996, the Ministers and other heads of delegations present at COP-2 crafted and released a Ministerial Declaration, also called The Geneva Declaration. It was based on a U.S. policy statement delivered July 17th at COP-2 which: 1) recognized and endorsed the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) as currently the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, 2) called for parties to set "legally binding, medium-term targets" for limitations and significant overall reductions of their emissions of greenhouse gases, and 3) rejected commitments for developed country parties regarding "common or harmonized" policies and measures in favor of flexibility in applying policies and measures to achieve emissions limitations and reductions. The Chairman of COP-2 called for FCCC parties to "take note" of the Ministerial Declaration, and to agree as a body to consider a "future decision [containing these elements] which would be legally binding on all parties under the FCCC."
Some in the U.S. Congress have voiced concerns about the principles of common but differentiated commitments and responsibilities, as well as respective capabilities, under FCCC for developed versus developing countries. Specifically, questions have been raised about whether continued adherence to these principles in any protocol or other legal instrument negotiated for the post-2000 period could disadvantage the United States economically and competitively in world markets. Among some Members and the committees of relevant jurisdiction in the House and Senate, a need has been expressed to be better informed about what exactly the United States potentially may be agreeing to during the current Analysis and Assessment Phase called for in the Framework Convention's 1995 Berlin Mandate, as well as what the economic impact would be of future decisions the United States might make vis a vis other FCCC parties in future climate protection negotiations.
The Berlin Mandate: Review of the adequacy of Article 4,
paragraph 2 (a) and (b), of the Convention, including proposals
related to a protocol and decisions on follow-up
The Ministerial Declaration of the Second Conference of Parties (COP-2) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), adopted July 18, 1995,1 arose out of consideration of two draft decision options for future negotiations to protect Earth's climate. One was presented by the United States2 and the other by the European Union (EU). The Declaration is predominantly influenced by the U.S. position which 1) accepts the science of climate change proffered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2) rejects uniform "harmonized policies" in favor of flexibility and, 3) calls for "legally-binding medium-term targets," which many COP-2 parties claim symbolizes an earnest commitment to protect "dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth's climate system," in the post-year 2000 period.
In essence, the Declaration represents a request by the Chairman of COP-2, Chen Chimutengwende of Zimbabwe, for FCCC parties to "take note" of these proposals and, as such, by agreeing to it expresses the sense of ministerial participants at COP-2 that, as a body, they do not object to a "future decision which would be binding on all parties under the FCCC," even though some parties expressed their reservations which were included for the record. The details of that "decision," however, have yet to be determined, and will be the subject of negotiations over the coming months to culminate at the Third Meeting of COP, scheduled for December 1997, in Kyoto, Japan.
Some have described the U.S. position which, in large part, forms the basis for the Ministerial Declaration, as being evident of its taking a leadership role in the post-year 2000 period. State Department officials have also commented that U.S. leadership has encouraged future movement toward a concerted international policy to protect climate. However Russia, and the OPEC3 bloc of countries objected to the Declaration outright, while Australia and New Zealand, noting the Declaration, voiced concern that the term "legally-binding" in the Ministerial Declaration is not adequately defined. U.S. State Department representatives characterized the Declaration's movement toward medium-term legally binding targets as getting away from rhetorical, empty pledges which have been the hallmark, so far, of negotiations toward climate change protection. They believe that legally binding targets force FCCC parties to gain a realistic sense of what needs to be done, which in the long run can help to equalize the differential interest and involvement among Annex I and other FCCC parties.4 (See Appendix III)
An official U.S. response to the Geneva Declaration was issued on July 19, 1996, to clarify how a legally binding medium range target might be achieved. Flexibility in how one attains emissions-reduction targets, which is a key concept of the Declaration, assumes a menu of policy options which U.S. negotiators believe would make potential solutions affordable. This would be accomplished through implementation of measures, including global emissions trading schemes, joint implementation projects (see Joint Implementation below) and U.S. bilateral efforts, such as the U.S. Country Studies program and environmental technology trade initiatives sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency jointly with the Department of Energy. In this respect U.S. negotiators believe that such an approach would not put OECD countries5 at an economic disadvantage, but perhaps allow them to implement climate protection measures that may eventually pay for themselves or provide a return on investment. A flexible approach, they claim, could also allow for either rolling or cumulative targets based on periodic assessments of progress and the state of climate science. They emphasized that any medium- or long-term goals that the U.S. is likely to support would require the participation of all developed and developing countries.
State Department officials also described the adoption of a standardized basis for reporting of international sources and sinks of greenhouse gas emissions, which was agreed to by all parties at COP-2, an indication of future progress in bringing more developing countries into and contributing to the FCCC process.
U.S. negotiators believe that an analysis and assessment phase called for in the April 1995 Berlin Mandate, at the First COP, has not yet yielded sufficient information whereby they could confidently prescribe emissions levels or a staged decrease in emissions to reach a near term emissions reduction target (by 2005). Instead they call for a focus on medium-term goals, where medium-term is described as occurring between 2010-2020. The levels of reduction would be negotiable. Such goals, they believe, would better synchronize with developed countries' economic and environmental interests, and are sensitive to the life cycle/turnover rate of existing capital stock and equipment in developed countries and with investment cycles that govern replacement of that stock and equipment.
Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Tim Wirth has noted that it is unreasonable, at this time, to consider long-term goals before COP-3, when taking into account the current partitioning of global emissions, the largest proportion of which are currently produced by OECD countries. However, a State Department spokesman has indicated that U.S. negotiators would probably concede the necessity of including an acknowledgment of long-term goals and binding commitments as part of any legally binding text (instrument) that might be opened for signature at COP-3. Long-term goals look toward the next 50-100 years and are also sensitive to corporate time tables for investment. State Department officials believe this will send a positive signal to companies to invest in the future. Also, Undersecretary Wirth, in his statement asserted that the U.S. would reject any rapid transition strategies suggested in the European Union (EU) and Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) proposals, 6 7 which, he affirmed, would interrupt economic growth in the United States or compromise economic interests of energy producing industries.
Wirth's statement goes further to reject the imposition of "harmonized" policies and measures on developed countries, such as uniform Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards and energy taxes, but rather would consider implementing more flexible, market based approaches, such as an emissions trading scheme similar to that found in the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Joint Implementation (JI) is a keystone of what Undersecretary Wirth has called a flexible approach to climate protection in the post-year 2000 period. The United States, and some other nations have advocated an unrestricted policy of joint implementation (JI), whereby any country, by merit of their ability to provide resources to any other country for the purposes of helping them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, could concomitantly earn some credit toward their own domestic greenhouse gas reduction goals. Joint Implementation (JI) was a leading topic for debate at COP-1, in April 1995, and activities which occurred prior to and at COP-1 were described by the U.S. delegation as being very fruitful. However, the scope and nature of an international joint implementation initiative (activities implemented jointly) under FCCC, i.e., has been contentiously debated, especially the issue of assigning credits for emissions reductions.
The U.S. position on JI has been criticized by the "Group of 77" (actually about 130 developing countries) as a tactic by which rich, industrialized countries could shirk their commitments to reduce emissions at home. Other FCCC parties, most notably the European Union, claim that such a use of joint implementation runs contrary to the original spirit of the terms of the climate convention. Many developing countries have argued that it is more important for the industrialized countries to pursue actions that would help to reduce their currently larger share of global greenhouse gas emissions, at their source. However, not all developing countries were on record as being opposed to JI; some anticipated its implementation as a sole means for them to comply with their obligations under FCCC, to inventory their sources and sinks of greenhouse gases and prepare national communications.
The United States is currently engaging both developing countries and those in economic transition (in Central Europe) in its US Initiative on JI (USIJI) pilot programs. However, at COP-1, a majority of parties agreed that emissions credits would not be allotted during the international pilot phase. The German government, however, suggested a possible ending date of 1999, for all pilot projects, and stated that, companies investing in successful joint implementation projects will likely be able to take credit thereafter. In March 1995, in Santiago Chile, U.S. negotiators, developed new JI agreements with some Latin American countries. Consequently, they were also somewhat satisfied that preliminary agreements on international JI, forged at COP-1, provided for all FCCC parties to participate. Unlike, the provision of the FCCC, the United States had considered offering business and industries involved in activities under the U.S. Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) credits which they would be able to count towards domestic emissions reductions. The United States has also been holding a series of outreach programs to involve the business community, non-governmental organizations, and other private stakeholders directly in future international climate negotiations to the extent that they occur. Furthermore, the Clinton Administration is supporting development of an international "Climate Technology Initiative," which would help industrialized countries to facilitate transfer and dissemination of environmental technologies to the developing world.
Many Members in the U.S. Congress have expressed concerns about how commitments under FCCC for developed and developing countries have been and would continue to be applied differently. They also want to be better informed about what the United States potentially may be agreeing to during the current Analysis and Assessment Phase called for in the Berlin Mandate. Furthermore, many are concerned about what future direction the United States may take vis a vis other FCCC parties in future climate protection negotiations, and what the potential implication for U.S. economy of both possible medium-term and long-term actions may be.
Many have contended that the Berlin Mandate, issued in April 1995, at COP-1 8 was flawed because it perpetuated different commitments for countries which are economically developed, in economic transition, or developing countries. The Geneva Declaration reaffirms and extends, after the year 2000, those commitments now incumbent upon all FCCC parties. State Department officials have commented that this differential approach has been consistent from the very beginning, as set forth in Article 4 of the Framework Convention (Commitments), and has been recognized by FCCC parties as a way Annex I countries could draw developing countries into the system for inventory, reporting and complying with their express commitments under FCCC. Many have pointed out that, to a certain extent, Annex I countries rely on commitments currently incumbent upon developing countries, in order that the former may be able to more realistically assess what their emission reduction goals might need to be in the near term. This can only be accomplished with the help of an accurate assessment of global sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.
However, others have noted that the Declaration makes no provision for a "transitioning" of developing countries into Annex I status, which would more realistically reflect the latters' changing economic developments and their potential for growth of emissions. Nevertheless, U.S. representatives at COP-2 were particularly encouraged that plans to compensate or provide exemptions for certain developing countries were rejected. Undersecretary Wirth is on record as supporting what he believes should be a developing nation's "graduation to compliance," which is made possible through "implementing polices and measures," such as those mentioned above which justify developing country participation in the FCCC process.
Eileen Claussen, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the State Department stressed that any future legally binding agreement to which the United States would consider becoming a party would be open to a wide spectrum of national interests for peer review, and all comments would be taken into consideration. Toward this end, Undersecretary of Commerce, Everett Ehrlich, is heading up a U.S. Government team of experts who will attempt to analyze what constitutes reasonably achievable emissions-reduction targets and over what time frame. This team will also assess for the business and industry communities, and the Nation as a whole, the economic implications for the United States of an agreement which would include legally binding emissions reductions targets. A number of possible scenarios were presented in economic papers prepared for a June 1996, Climate Change Analysis Workshop, hosted by the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and State, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA issued a notice of the beginning of a 90-day comment period on these proceedings, which closed October 28, 1 996 9
Still to be worked out, but not specifically addressed at COP-2, are possible compliance enforcement measures, whether they would be "hard or soft," and by whom compliance would be enforced. Next steps after COP-2 will be pursued at two upcoming meetings, one December 8-18, 1996, in Geneva, and one February 24-March 7, 1997, in Bonn, Germany. During these meetings, U.S. representatives will set out to:
At the February 1997 meeting, FCCC parties hope to have the final text of a legally-binding agreement ready for international review which would then be opened for signature at COP-3.
Appendix I: Review of the Implementation of the Convention and of Decisions of the First Session of the Conference of Parties
CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES
The Ministers and other heads of delegations present at the second session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,
Noting that this, our meeting at Ministerial level under the Convention, is a demonstration of our intention to continue to take an active and constructive role in addressing the threat of climate change,
Appendix II: the Berlin Mandate: Review of the Adequacy of Article 4, Paragraph 2 (A) and (B), of the Convention, Including Proposals Related to a Protocol and Decisions on Follow-up
1. Decisions Adopted by the Conference of the Parties
Decision 1/CP. I
The Conference of the Parties, at its
first session, Having reviewed Article 4, paragraph 2(a)
and (b), of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change, and Having conduced that these subparagraphs are
not adequate, Agrees to begin a process to enable it to
take appropriate action for the period beyond 2000, including the
strengthening of the commitments of the Parties included in Annex
I to the Convention (Annex I Parties) in Article 4, paragraph
2(a) and (b), through the adoption of a protocol or another legal
The process shall be guided, inter alia, by the following:
2. The process will, inter alia:
3. The process will be carried Out in the light of the best available scientific information and assessment on climate change and its impacts, as well as relevant technical, social and economic information, including, inter alia, reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It will also make use of other available expertise.
4. The process will include in its early stages an analysis and assessment, to identify possible policies and measures for Annex I Parties which could contribute to limiting and reducing emissions by sources and protecting and enhancing sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases. This process could identify' environmental and economic impacts and the results that could be achieved with regard to time horizons such as 2005, 2010, and 2020.
5. The protocol proposal of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which contains specific reduction targets and was formally submitted in accordance with Article 17 of the Convention, along with other proposals and pertinent documents, should be included for consideration in the process.
6. The process should begin without delay and be conducted as a matter of urgency, in an open-ended ad hoc group of Parties hereby established, which will report to the second session of the Conference of the Parties on the status of this process. The sessions of this group should be scheduled to ensure completion of the work as early as possible in 1997, with a view to adopting the results at the third session of the Conference of the Parties.
9th plenary meeting April 1995
Appendix III: Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
a Countries that are undergoing the process of transition to a market economy.
1 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Conference of Parties, Second session, Geneva, 8-19 July 1996 (agenda item 5) [see appendix I]. Review of the implementation of the convention and of Decisions of the First session of the Conference of Parties: Ministerial Declaration (FCCC/CP/1996/L.17, July 19, 1996).
2 The Honorable Timothy E. Wirth, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs on behalf of the United States of America. Presentation to the Second Conference of Parties, Framework Convention on Climate Change, Geneva, Switzerland, July 17, 1996.
3 The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is made up of the following members: Algeria, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
4 Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), Annex I Countries include economically developed countries and "other parties" which are former centrally-planned economies now in transition to market-based economies. Annex II Countries are economically developed countries which have added responsibilities under FCCC such as fiscal and technological assistance to economically developing countries which would to help the latter meet Commitments incumbent upon all FCCC parties. All Annex II Countries are also Annex I Countries. All remaining parties under the FCCC, not classified as either Annex I or Annex II, are considered to be economically Developing Countries.
5 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany. Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States, and currently represent about three-fourths of total global emissions of greenhouse gases.
6 The EU Proposal (German Proposal at COP-1) seeks to reduce emissions of Annex I parties 10% below 1990 levels by 2005 and 15% to 20% below 1990 levels by 2010.
8 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Conference of the Parties, First session, Berlin, 28 March - April 7, 1995 (Agenda item 6 (c)). Conclusion of outstanding issues and adoption of decisions: Proposal on Agenda item 5 (a) (iii), submitted by the President of the Conference: Review of the adequacy of article 4, paragraph 2 (a) and (b) of the Convention, including proposals related to a protocol and decisions on follow-up (see Appendix II)
9 Notice of 90-Day Comment Period on the Proceedings of the Climate Change Analysis Workshop. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Notice. Federal Register, v.61, no. 146, July 29, 1996: 39453.
10 Personal Communication, The Business Council for Sustainable Energy. Washington, DC, August 1, 1996.
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