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Continued Negotiations on Modalities and Procedures for Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol

The discussion of the negotiations in the Berlin Mandate context has made clear that a relatively small group of countries played a key role in shaping the final text of the Kyoto Protocol. China and India strictly opposed attempts from some developed countries to incorporate commitments for developing countries, either as voluntary policies and measures or as flexible emission budgets. Several institutional elements of the Kyoto Protocol were taken from the US proposals—e.g, national emission budgets (the assigned amounts), international emissions trading based on countries’ assigned amounts, project-based emissions trading with developing countries, multiple gases, and a multi-year commitment period— whereas, on the other hand, the US delegation managed to get rid of the legally-binding status of policies and measures, as proposed by the EU. This lower profile for policies and measures was a disappointment for the EU, which had spent much effort on precisely this element. However, the EU softened the disagreement between the USA and G-77&China on legally binding commitments for developing countries by literally sticking to the text of the Berlin Mandate. The EU strongly influenced the debate on differentiation of commitments, a concept which it initially seemed to oppose but suddenly applied in practice itself through the March 1997 burden sharing agreement among the EU Member States. Finally, Japan perhaps showed more flexibility during the negotiations because of its status as host of COP-3.

These countries continued to play their key roles also after the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol when negotiations focussed on working out its operational details. The analysis of the post-1997 negotiations in this section will focus on themes and key players rather than on a chronological description of negotiation sessions. The main reason for this approach is that, contrary to the Berlin Mandate negotiation process, the 1998-2005 negotiations were largely characterised by (high-level) bilateral meetings between key countries (sometimes even in the context of other multilateral meetings such as of the World Trade Organisation, WTO). These diplomatic meetings of country representatives between the official UNFCCC sessions turned out to be almost as important as the discussions inside the official negotiations room. A focus on negotiation sessions alone would thus only cover part of the story.

COP-3 recognised that the Kyoto Protocol, despite being a much more specific treaty than the UNFCCC, still needed further decisions on specific modalities and procedures for its operationalisation. For instance, the inclusion of land-use (change) and forestry in Article 3 as an option for reducing carbon emissions enabled developed countries to achieve their commitments partly by investing in forests and land-use change projects. The Kyoto Protocol had not yet defined how and to what extent this should be included, e.g., what type of forestry would be eligible (afforestation and/or forest conservation) and how land use and land-use change should be defined as an emission reduction option. Furthermore, the Kyoto Protocol opened a large new debate on the so-called flexibility mechanisms JI, CDM and International Emissions Trading, which were included in the Protocol to help developed countries comply with their commitments through collaboration with other countries (see Box 4.1). Finally, COP-3 did not really resolve the issue of compliance, i.e. what are the consequences for countries (e.g., sanctions and compensation) in case they would not meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments? Addressing these issues was foreseen under the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, which was adopted at COP-4 (November 1998, Buenos Aires, Argentina) (UNFCCC 1998b).

The process of developing modalities and procedures for the Kyoto Protocol was, however, largely overshadowed by the problems that arose when, in March 2001, US President George W. Bush decided not to support the protocol. He considered the Protocol ‘fatally flawed’ because it did not contain quantified commitments for rapidly industrialising developing countries such as China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. Moreover, the protocol would require an emission reduction effort from the USA which could, in the view of the Bush Administration, strongly disrupt the US economy [by 2001 US greenhouse gas emissions had grown to over 15 % above 1990 levels, whereas the country had agreed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its emissions by 7 % by 2008-2012 (US EPA 2011)].

Note, however, that the decision of the Bush Administration could not be considered a sudden change in the US governmental position concerning a global climate policy. Earlier in this chapter, the Byrd-Hagel resolution of 1997 has been mentioned, and between COP-3 and COP-6, the USA tried at least five times to include the issue of ‘meaningful participation by developing countries’ in the agenda for negotiations, without the desired result (IISD 2000a, p. 2). In fact, the Dutch Presidency of COP-6 argued, based on its pre-COP bilateral meetings with developing country representatives, that adopting a decision on ‘meaningful participation’ at COP-6 would not be realistic and thus left it out of the agenda.

The US decision to withdraw from ‘Kyoto’ posed a serious threat to the Kyoto Protocol. For the protocol to become legally-binding at least 55 % of developed countries’ greenhouse gas emissions (in the year 1990) should be covered by

Table 4.1 Percentage of developed countries emissions in 1990—Article 25 of the Kyoto Protocola





Russian Federation










Czech Republic


















New Zealand


Other developed countries


Total emissions developed countries in 1990

100 %

aThis list does not include Ukraine which, by 1997, had not yet submitted its national communication on 1990 emissions. Therefore, its emissions are not included in the Table annexed to Article 25 of the Protocol. The Ukrainian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol therefore had no effect on the entry-into-force of the Protocol (UNFCCC 1998a, p. 18, Art. 25)

ratifications. Early 2001, the EU had already expressed its readiness to ratify the protocol, but for reaching the 55 % threshold also ratification by the Russian Federation (17.4 %), Japan (8.5 %), Canada (3.3 %), and Australia (2.1 %) had become crucial (see Table 4.1). The US decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol suddenly increased the negotiation power of these four countries in the remainder of the process.

The role of the G-77&China became less important as their emissions did not count for reaching the 55 % threshold, whereas they strongly supported the Kyoto Protocol and showed willingness to accept special wishes of some industrialised countries which could even reduce the environmental integrity of the protocol (see below). Consequently, the negotiations during 2001-2005 did not focus so much on how to include developing countries in a climate policy regime (as had been the case during 1995-1997), but on how to persuade key developed countries to continue their support to the Kyoto Protocol. In this process, the EU eventually played a key, if not decisive, role.

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