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Bonn Agreement

Strikingly, the Bonn Agreement was much ‘less green’ than the EU proposals for modalities and procedures before the US withdrawal. For instance, the Bonn Agreement allowed developed countries a larger use of LULUCF activities in complying with their protocol commitments, which was especially beneficial for forest-rich countries as Canada, Japan and the Russian Federation. It was unavoidable to link this additional flexibility to Canada, Japan and the Russian Federation with the EU’s efforts to gain these countries’ support to the Kyoto Protocol. In a closed negotiation group on LULUCF, which met at the resumed COP-6 meeting in Bonn, the delegates of the three countries had emphasised that LULUCF was fundamental to their ratification of the Protocol (IISD 2001, p. 13).

An even stronger example of how the US withdrawal from the Kyoto process affected the environmental integrity of the Protocol could be found in the debate on compliance. At COP-6, Parties were quite close to an agreement on a compliance regime under the Kyoto Protocol that would legally bind non-complying countries to a compensation of the ‘environmental damage’ caused by their non-compliance, e.g., through payments. The EU and the G-77&China, supported by the USA, were then in favour of strong compliance measures, whereas Australia, Japan and the Russian Federation proposed a compliance regime based on ‘environmental integrity’ rather than based on ‘reparation of damage’ (IISD 2000b, p. 10).

In The Hague, the latter position was clearly a minority point of view, but at the resumed COP-6 session in Bonn, six months and the inauguration of President Bush later, this situation had changed. Now, without the support of the USA, the EU and the G-77&China had less negotiation power to move their strict compliance proposals forward and Australia, Japan and the Russian Federation cleverly managed to re-open the compliance debate. Eventually, negotiators needed a marathon session, which lasted from Saturday morning on 21 July until the following Monday morning, to settle the compliance issue in the Bonn Agreement. The result was that, instead of ‘reparation payments’, developed countries who surpass their assigned amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (their emission ‘budgets’) would have to carry out extra abatement efforts in a future, post-2012, commitment period. This extra effort would amount to 1.3 times the excess emissions from the country’s first commitment period assigned amount (IISD 2001, p. 8).

This was a much weaker compliance regime than initially envisaged by the EU and the G-77&China, as well as by most of the other countries at COP-6. For instance, although the required extra effort during a future commitment period was presented as an incentive for present compliance, it could also easily be interpreted as an elegant way to postpone abatement action. This interpretation was especially relevant when assuming that future commitments would be negotiated in a similar way as during the Berlin Mandate process. In other words, a country realising that it will overshoot its Kyoto Protocol budget has an incentive to negotiate a higher future assigned amount so that the required extra abatement effort (1.3 times the excess emissions) can be compensated by a more flexible future target.

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