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Negotiation Factor 2: Impact of Negotiation Process Under the Berlin Mandate on Kyoto Protocol Agreement

The negotiation process leading to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and its entry-into-force in 2005 began officially in March 1995 when the first COP was held. From then on, an intense negotiations trajectory took place with the following key characteristics.

Parties to the UNFCCC met annually at sessions of the COP to take political decisions at the highest political UNFCCC level. The COP process was supported by meetings and more technical negotiations (SBSTA and SBI sessions). In addition, for the development of the Kyoto Protocol the COP adopted the Berlin Mandate and the ad hoc working group, AGBM, which met twice a year or sometimes even more. During 1995-1997, the COP, supported by SBSTA/SBI, worked on implementation of the UNFCCC, whereas AGBM solely focussed on protocol negotiations. Therefore, these processes were largely kept separate whereby AGBM formally reported to the COP.

During the AGBM process, as well as before 1992, during the negotiation process towards an UNFCCC agreement, the first meetings mainly focused on organisational or procedural matters, which were followed at later sessions by discussions on more fundamental issues such as whether developing countries would have to adopt greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments or whether and how commitments should be focussed on mandatory policies and measures or national emission quotas or budgets. The final stages of these processes were largely characterised by intense negotiations where eventually agreed commitments and responsibilities were mainly the result of negotiation dynamics under time pressure rather than based on scientifically derived methodologies.

The negotiation processes towards the Kyoto Protocol (as well as towards the UNFCCC) could also be characterised by taking several small steps instead of trying to make a few large steps towards a final agreement. With small steps countries could familiarise themselves well with positions of other countries and related sensitivities. Although progress may not always have been visible and satisfactory during the AGBM process, these small steps were indispensable for making the final step in Kyoto.

During negotiations under the AGBM process and after ‘Kyoto’, countries hardly negotiated as individual countries. Instead, they formed negotiation groups or coalitions to jointly formulate and express their views and demands on what benefits they expected from a protocol and what costs they would accept. Logically, country negotiation groups were formed by ‘like-minded’ countries which had common concerns and interests (e.g., the Alliance of Small Island States and the Umbrella group). The groups subsequently appointed representatives to smaller negotiation groups such as ‘Friends of the Chair’ or working groups on specific topics. At some stages during the AGBM process, especially the G-77&China sometimes seemed to splinter into smaller developing country groups with different interests on particular topics. However, by the time of ‘Kyoto’, the G-77&China regained unity and formed an important negotiation partner with strong influence on the eventual negotiation outcome.

While the Berlin Mandate negotiation process had mainly taken place within the AGBM and COP framework, during 1998-2005 negotiations were increasingly characterised by (high-level) bilateral meetings between key Parties. These diplomatic meetings of country representatives turned out to be almost as important as the discussions inside the official climate negotiations room, especially after the withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol by the USA.

In conclusion, the main benefit from the Kyoto Protocol negotiation process was that it was sufficiently flexible to enable an ongoing international debate on climate change by observing the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities so that most countries decided to ratify the protocol. After all, the negotiation process in this chapter has shown that generally there was no disagreement about the requirement to combat global warming. Disagreements emerged about the pathways to be taken and the AGBM process managed to find a mutually acceptable pathway for developed and developing countries. On this pathway, the process enabled making distinctions between political and technical issues, by leaving some negotiation steps to the COP and others to the AGBM and Subsidiary Bodies, so that political issues would not necessarily have to block technical discussions, and the other way round.

In that respect, it can be concluded that the factor of a facilitating process turned out to be important for the final negotiation outcome. It showed that the negotiation process was sufficiently enabling to work flexibly from hypothetical point A to point D in Fig. 1.1 (in Chap. 1). Moreover, when external ‘shocks’ emerged, such as the US withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, the process received ‘external’ support, such as bi- or multilateral meetings of government leaders.

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