Final talks at AWG held back by linkages to other issues?
Nusa Dua, Bali, 14 Dec (Lim Li Lin) -- The most important decision that should emerge from the UN Climate Change conference in Bali is on the further commitments of developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The process on this issue however had become unclear in the second week of the Bali conference, as no announced meetings were held on Wednesday or Thursday. It is now in the agenda of the programme on Friday, the last day.
Several diplomats have indicated their belief that movement in the AWG (Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol) is tied to what happens in the agenda item on long-term cooperative action.
There is also a fear that the holding up of the AWG process could be used as a leverage to obtain certain concessions (including from developing countries or some of them) in the discussion on long-term cooperative action, according to sources.
An unspoken “trade-off” could be that developed countries agree to further binding emission reductions obligations in the next commitment period from 2013 onwards, if developing countries also agree to some kind of commitments (whether binding or not) to act on their GHG emissions in the discussion on long term cooperative action.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries (included in Annex I) are legally bound to reduce GHG emissions by an average of about 5% between 2008 and 2012 compared to emission levels in 1990. They are also obliged to make further commitments for subsequent periods. Further binding commitments should be reached by 2009, so the next commitment period can begin in 2013, avoiding any time gap between the two commitment periods.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, developing countries do not have binding emission reduction commitments. The US, the largest emitter in the world, is also not legally bound to commit to undertake emission reductions under the Protocol, since it withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol.
Developed countries have been keen to draw in developing countries, especially the larger emitters, to commit to binding targets or to make other commitments. Getting these countries to accept binding commitments has therefore been the main political focus of the Bali meetings. The discussion on long-term cooperative action is seen as the process that could draw in both developing countries and the US.
The dilemma of some Kyoto-Annex B Parties is how to manage this “drawing in” as a component of their decision on what they themselves should commit in the second period. This has been the main focus under discussions on long-term cooperative action.
So what has happened to the AWG? The draft conclusions proposed by the Chair, Leon Charles from Grenada, at the final AWG plenary on Tuesday could not be adopted because there were still a number of square brackets in the text (indicating no consensus), despite numerous closed informal consultations and at least five versions of the text produced.
What is being discussed here in Bali in the continuation of the fourth AWG session that began in Vienna in August 2007, is simply the review of the work programme, the methods of work, and the schedule for future sessions of the AWG.
Holding up the completion of the text are linkages between the AWG and the long-term cooperative process and commitments. This issue had been on the table from the beginning when developed countries made it clear in the first “contact group” that they wanted the linkages to the long-term cooperative process under the Convention to be made explicit in the AWG text.
The EU stressed that the AWG was one important element of the so-called “Bali Road Map”, and one key component of the “new agreement” they hoped to see launched in Bali. Developing countries opposed such linkages. They instead stressed that this was an independent process that did not depend on other processes, and that there should be no formal linkage.
The first few drafts of the text made convening of future AWG sessions conditional on the convening of “a process under the Convention”. This was eventually dropped. However, not content with this, Australia introduced: “the AWG noted that this review of the work programme, methods of work and schedule for future sessions, (constitute) along with decisions on the scope and content of the second review of the Kyoto Protocol, the Kyoto Protocol’s portion of the Bali roadmap.”
This too was opposed by developing countries, and dropped in the subsequent version of the text. But a new paragraph was then introduced: “the AWG reaffirmed that the completion of its work programme will be advanced primarily through the work of Parties, and that it will draw upon relevant results achieved and work under way in other bodies and processes, in particular, the second review of the Kyoto pursuant to its Article 9, with a view to maximizing synergies and the efficiency of the overall process.”
In the draft text presented to the AWG plenary on Tuesday, this paragraph was no longer in square brackets, and read: “the AWG reaffirmed that the completion of its work programme will be advanced primarily through the work of Parties, and that it will coordinate its work and draw upon relevant results achieved and work under way in other bodies and processes under the Convention, especially its Kyoto Protocol, with a view to avoiding duplication.”
In contrast, the language in the text which details the work to determine the actual commitment reductions by developed countries was placed in square brackets, even though it had not previously been disputed. This includes “…the scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties in aggregate” in the draft text that was presented to the AWG plenary on Tuesday.
Also placed in square brackets is paragraph 8 that states that the work of the AWG will be concluded in 2009. At the last two sessions, the AWG should adopt conclusions on the tasks set out in the work programme, adopt conclusions on the legal implications arising from the work of the AWG, and forward “the results of its work” on further commitments for Annex I Parties to the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol to consider “with a view to its adoption”.
As well as being bracketed, the last point has also been substantially watered down from the firmer language to “forward relevant draft decisions on further commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol for adoption” by the Meeting of the Parties.
To support these changes, the EU argues that paragraph 8 is about the future commitments by Annex I Parties and these, in turn, are linked to discussion on long-term cooperative action, where the EU would like to see the US (in some way) taking up a comparable share of emission reduction commitments, and developing countries (or some of them) to make contributions.
Thus it would seem that the Kyoto-Annex B Parties (including the EU) may not want to seriously negotiate for the next commitment period, until they know how the US commits and how the developing countries contribute.
On the other hand, developing countries want to be assured that Annex I parties are committed to adequately deep cuts in a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol before agreeing to any outcome in a new process, instead of the other way around.
The final plenary of the AWG will convene today (Friday, December 14) to adopt its decision. Over the last few days, a “drafting group” comprising South Africa (on behalf of G77 and China), Australia, Canada, Portugal (EU), Russia, Japan and New Zealand have been meeting to reach agreement on the text, but no real movement is expected until the discussion on long-term cooperative action has completed its work.