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EU: Shift in Negotiation Strategy

Although the Kyoto Protocol deviated on several points from the EU proposals submitted during AGBM negotiations, the EU remained a strong supporter of the protocol throughout the period 1997-2000. During negotiations at COP-4 through 6, the EU delegations tried to identify a number of issues to support the environmental integrity of the protocol. For example, the EU was strongly in favour of defining the term ‘supplementary’ in relation to using the Kyoto flexibility mechanisms (which part of the commitment should countries do within their own borders?). The protocol stated that developed countries’ use of JI, CDM and emissions trading should be supplemental to their domestic activities (UNFCCC 1998a, pp. 6-7, Art. 6.1(d) and 11-12, Art. 12.3(b)). However, it was not specified which part of the commitments could be done through the flexibility mechanisms.

In the course of 1999, the European Commission and the EU Council of Environment Ministers developed a formula which would limit the use of the flexibility mechanisms to about 50 % of Parties’ abatement effort under the Protocol (Zhang 2001). This ceiling approach was heavily criticised by the so-called Umbrella Group,[1] which wanted freedom for each Annex I Party to define its own supplementary rules. The main rationale for the EU to propose a ceiling was that it feared that a large use of the flexibility mechanisms would reduce developed countries’ domestic abatement efforts. On this topic, the EU was strongly supported by the G-77&China. In addition, the EU argued that the use of the flexibility mechanisms was surrounded by several methodological uncertainties about calculating emission reductions achieved through JI and CDM projects, which would need to be addressed first.

Furthermore, the EU wanted to limit the scope for using land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities in support of developed countries’ compliance efforts. Especially during the year 2000, at the sessions of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies in June (Bonn, Germany) and September (Lyon, France) and at COP-6 (the Hague, the Netherlands, Fig. 4.3), the US delegation had opened the debate with a proposal to also include improved agricultural harvesting techniques in Article 3.3 of the protocol, which would reduce the release of carbon from soils due to agricultural activities. The EU delegation argued, in a reaction, that a broad interpretation of LULUCF would enable several developed countries to largely avoid energy and industrial sector emission reductions, and doubted whether there was already enough scientific evidence on how long the carbon stored in trees and soils would stay there.

Throughout the period 1998-2000, the EU thus tried to counterweigh the more flexible attitude of the Umbrella Group (especially the USA) towards the modalities and procedures of the Kyoto Protocol. As the Earth Negotiations Bulletin wrote in

Environmental NGOs campaign to stop climate change, COP-6, The Hague (2000)

Fig. 4.3 Environmental NGOs campaign to stop climate change, COP-6, The Hague (2000)

1997, when anonymously quoting a US delegate: “the EU had more fun in being green than in being practical” (IISD 1997b, p. 15). This difference of opinion eventually resulted in the failure to reach agreement at COP-6 on a text on LULUCF measures (November 2000), which forced the Dutch COP Presidency to suspend the negotiations to July 2001.

After the US withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol process, however, a significant change in the EU negotiation position could be observed. Concerns about the entry-into-force of the protocol stimulated the EU to start an intense diplomatic campaign in March 2001, which led to a number of bilateral meetings with Australia, Canada, Japan, the Russian Federation, and the G-77&China delegations. An important observation from this period is that the EU showed much more coherence than before when disagreements among Member States regularly led to weaker EU positions at negotiation sessions (Hyvarinen 2000). After March 2001, the EU showed a strong unanimous determination to rescue the Kyoto Protocol. Eventually, at the resumed session of COP-6 in Bonn (Germany, July 2001), the EU efforts paid off as Parties reached consensus on the Bonn Agreement, which was generally considered the rescue of the Kyoto Protocol.

  • [1] The Umbrella Group was the new name of the former JUSSCANZ group (see footnote 12 andBox 2.1).
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