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World: Climate Talks Open in Morocco

Environment News Service
October 29th, 2001

MARRAKECH, Morocco -- Climate talks have resumed to finalize the procedures and institutions that will make the Kyoto Protocol fully operational. The world's governments are meeting here from today through November 9 to work out exactly how to reduce the emissions of six greenhouse gases that are linked to global warming.

"It is the first time that a meeting of such a high level and dealing with topics of such an importance is held on the African continent," said Mohamed Elyazghi, Morocco's Minister of Territory Planning, Urban Management, Housing and Environment, who is presiding over the talks at the Palais des Congrès.

The meeting is formally known as the Seventh Conference of the Parties (COP-7) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The negotiators will work out how to limit the human contributions to global warming that is changing the environment by melting polar ice caps, raising sea levels, altering weather patterns and spreading tropical diseases to temperate climates.

The fact that Morocco is hosting this conference is "proof of the engagement of our country and our continent in the dynamic to find solutions to problems linked to effects of greenhouse gases of which our region suffers considerably," Elyazghi said.

"Persistent drought, desertification, flooding and other consequences of this phenomenon have indeed strongly hit our population and risk to seriously reduce our potential of development," he said.

In seeking agreement, the delegates will continue negotiations held over the past three years. They will base their discussions on a set of political principles approved by ministers and other senior government officials at the most recent climate negotiations in July in Bonn, Germany.

Under the protocol, 38 industrialized countries, known as Annex I Parties, have committed themselves to reducing their overall emissions of six greenhouse gases by at least five percent below 1990 levels over the period between 2008 and 2012, with specific targets varying from country to country.

Thirty-nine were to have been governed by the original agreement signed in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, but, reversing Clinton era policy, President George W. Bush in March said that the United States would not ratify the protocol because it would impact negatively on the U.S. economy.

Still, the United States is present in Marrakech and observing the talks as a Party to the UN climate change convention. Dr. Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for global affairs heads the small U.S. delegation with senior climate negotiator Dr. Harlan Watson. The U.S. has agreed not to obstruct the protocol process.

The protocol provides the basis for three mechanisms to aid the Annex I countries in meeting their national targets in a cost effective manner:

  • an emissions trading system
  • joint implementation of emissions reduction projects between Annex I Parties
  • a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to encourage joint projects between Annex I countries and developing countries

"The work of translating the Bonn Agreements into a detailed operational rulebook must be completed here in Marrakech," said Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the UN climate convention. Cabinet ministers will be in Marrakech from November 7 to 9 to approve the final document.

The negotiators expect to start setting up the Kyoto institutions in Marrakech. A first step would be to elect the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism to ensure the CDM's prompt start.

The Clean Development Mechanism will promote sustainable development by encouraging investments in projects in developing countries that reduce or avoid emissions. Developed countries then receive credit against their Kyoto targets for emissions avoided by these projects.

The discussions will also address how to increase the flow of financial and technological support to developing countries under the Climate Change Convention, and prospects for expanding the group of countries with emissions targets.

With the new funding and rules in place, the negotiators could turn to the political issues that are likely to dominate the next few years, including the widespread desire to re-engage the U.S. in emissions limitation.

"Certainty about the Kyoto Protocol's rules will further motivate businesses and other economic factors to create the low carbon economy of the future. It will also clear the way for governments to ratify the protocol and bring it into force. Marrakech should be the turning point that enables the protocol to move into high gear," Cutajar said.

Although 84 countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol, most have been waiting for negotiation of the operational details before deciding whether to ratify. To enter into force, the Protocol must be ratified by 55 Parties to the UNFCCC, including Annex I Parties representing at least 55 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990. To date, 40 Parties have ratified the Protocol, including one Annex I Party, Romania.

The 15 European Union countries have expressed the intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in time for next September's World Summit of Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.





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