Climate Delegates Adopt Kyoto Protocol Rule Book

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, December 2, 2005 (ENS) - Parties to the Kyoto Protocol have adopted a set of decisions that complete the protocol rule book. "The Kyoto Protocol is now fully operational. This is an historic step," said Canadian Environment Minister Stéphane Dion, President of the Conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Montreal, which includes the first ever meeting of the 157 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

The Montreal gathering is the 11th Conference of the 189 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The conference, attended by an estimated 10,000 government delegates, business and civic leaders and environmentalists, is the largest such meeting since the Kyoto Climate Conference in 1997.

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Canadian Environment Minister Stéphane Dion presides over the Conference of Parties. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Under the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the UNFCCC, 35 industrialized countries are legally bound to meet specific reduction targets for emissions of six greenhouse gases between 2008 and 2012, called the first commitment period.

As part of the set of decisions approved Wednesday, the parties established the Joint Implementation Supervisory Board. Joint implementation is a Kyoto Protocol mechanism that allows developed countries to invest in low greenhouse gas emissions projects other developed countries and earn carbon allowances they can use to meet their own emission reduction commitments.

In addition, the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows industrialized countries to invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries and earn carbon allowances, is established fully.

Other decisions define how countries’ emissions are accounted for, precise guidelines on data systems that have to be developed, and rules governing how absorption of carbon dioxide by agricultural soils and forests is measured.

Concerning these decisions, Richard Kinley, acting head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat said, "It is a pleasure to celebrate the fact that the Protocol is up and running."

"Carbon now has a market value," said Kinley. "Under the clean development mechanism, investing in projects that provide sustainable development and reduce emissions makes sound business sense."

The Kyoto parties also are obligated legally to start discussions in Montreal on a second commitment period that would begin in 2013.

There has been a growing sense worldwide that the global climate needs protection, said Dion. "In my discussions with countries from around the world over the past eight months, it has become clear that there is a growing sense of the need for action," he said.

"Individual citizens and their governments have underlined their concerns about rising energy prices, energy security, and the growing scientific evidence of the impact of climate change," said Dion.

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Friends of the Earth groups across Europe have collected thousands of messages from European citizens, demanding new and real action from world leaders to curb greenhouse gas emissions. At the UN climate negotiations in Montreal, Friends of the Earth constructed a giant installation, paving the way into the conference venue. (Photo courtesy FOE International)
Biodiversity conservation can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change on life on Earth, the IUCN-World Conservation Union said in a new report released Thursday at the Montreal meeting. At the same time, the IUCN said, human-induced climate change is expected to accelerate biodiversity loss worldwide and will have serious impacts on human society.

Biodiversity and natural resources have an important role in mitigating climate change, the IUCN said, explaining that forest and wetland ecosystems have an important role in carbon storage.

"Improved management of these resources will result not only in better adaptive capacity, but also in lower carbon dioxide emissions," says the organization, which publishes the Red Data List of Threatened Species, providing conservation status and distribution information for creatures that are facing a high risk of global extinction..

Conservation and biodiversity concerns need to be incorporated in climate change adaptation strategies and actions. When developing national action plans on implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, the IUCN advises, states should take the conservation of biodiversity fully into account.

WWF, the global conservation organization, expressed concerns about the host country, Canada, in a new report launched at the meeting that details the effects on Canada if global temperatures rise more than two degrees Celsius.

Canada’s Atlantic fish will be squeezed into ever smaller patches of cool water, endangered Atlantic salmon will be doomed, and key boreal forest species will be stranded as their natural habitats erode, if the planet’s temperature is allowed to rise too far, says WWF.

"The threat from global warming means that there will be few fish to fish and not many trees to harvest," says Julia Langer, WWF-Canada’s Director of Global Threats. "Canada’s obligation to fight climate change takes on added urgency when the cost of inaction is our emblamatic renewable resource base."

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On Thursday, delegates met in contact groups and informal consultations to advance work on agenda items. (Photo courtesy ENB)
The report states that a warming of two degrees Celsius will increase Atlantic water temperatures from 1.5 to 2.2 degrees Celsius. The warming continues the pressure on fish populations already strained by overfishing, pollution and habitat loss. Both Atlantic salmon and Atlantic deep sea scallops may be lost in their southern range, with no northward gain, the WWF report predicts.

The Asian shore crab, an alien species, is likely to invade shoreline habitats along the coast of Nova Scotia, Gulf of St. Lawrence and parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, potentially covering the entire Canadian Atlantic.

WWF warns that, "The potential for dramatic change in Ontario's forests is alarming."

Sugar maple, black spruce and jack pine are projected to decline because their habitats move northwards too quickly. Production of maple syrup may be reduced if temperatures remain above freezing during the sugaring-off period. While maple syrup and maple sugar make only a small contribution to Canada's GDP, effects on local economies and regional heritage could be large.

Warmer, drier conditions are expected to increase both frequency and severity of fires and insect outbreaks in Canada’s northern forests. This could result in younger forests overall which reduces the amount of harvestable timber.

"If we are to avoid irreparable damage to Canada’s nature and economy we need to act now to slow the increase in global temperature," says Jennifer Morgan, director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Programme. "The Montreal conference is the moment where leaders need to take a deep breath and make a formal decision to negotiate more action and commitments to cut CO2 emissions."

The United States has often been cricitized for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, but senior climate negotiator Harlan Watson said at a briefing that the United States is "moving forward" in its commitment to fighting climate change, although the administration does not support the "structured" Kyoto Protocol approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012.

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Senior U.S. climate negotiator Harlan Watson is alternate head of the U.S. delegation to the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. (Photo courtesy ENB)
Watson, who serves as alternate head of the U.S. delegation, said the United States respects the Kyoto signatories’ obligation to discuss post-2012 emission targets at the meeting but "is opposed to any such discussions under the Framework Convention."

But, he said, "there is more than one way to address climate change.

"I reject the premise that the Kyoto-like agreement is necessary to address the issue," he added. "There are many approaches. We are on a different one from the Kyoto parties. We're all coming forward at the end - the main objective is to lower emissions in the long run."

U.S. climate change policy is based on a range of programs and technology initiatives and partnerships that address near term and long term sustainable development and clean energy objectives, Watson said.

Watson said that nearly every major provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 enacted on August 8 will help advance and deploy more efficient and less greenhouse gas intensive energy systems.

The legislation includes more than $11 billion in incentives for production of wind, geothermal and solar power; consumer tax credits for fuel efficient hybrid and clean diesel vehicles; clean coal technology; nuclear power; and renewable biofuels.

"The United States is actively pursuing our climate change strategy," Watson said. "We are in the implementation phase and we are spending approximately $5 billion annually - more than any other country - on science and technology."

An estimated 100 ministers will attend the high-level segment of the Conference, beginning on Wednesday, which will be opened by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, and the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette.