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Negotiations Factor 3: Decisive Negotiation Tactics and Facilitating Aspects During AGBM Protocol Negotiations

The Kyoto Protocol design and structure and the progress during the negotiation process were influenced by the following negotiation tactics and facilitating aspects.

In 1995, the IPCC published its Second Assessment Report with the important conclusion that human action could have climatic impacts. This conclusion had a direct impact on climate policy making with the COP-1 decision that the stabilisation targets for developed countries agreed under the UNFCCC for the year 2000 were inadequate. The IPCC report conclusions thus formed an important input for the Berlin Mandate negotiations.

The personalities of Chair Raul Estrada during the AGBM process and US Vice President Al Gore were important factors for successful completion of the AGBM and COP-3 negotiations. Estrada managed to keep all Parties on board despite their controversies and disagreements and managed to keep the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities alive (important for developing countries) while enabling considerable flexibility to developed countries for fulfilling commitments (thereby utilising a broad range of US proposals for the protocol text). Gore’s intervention halfway the negotiations at ‘Kyoto’ was important to mobilise the US position in a direction away from the mandate ‘provided’ by the Byrd-Hagel resolution. However, this tactical manoeuvre overlooked that the thus agreed Kyoto Protocol text could not be supported by the US Congress after ‘Kyoto’, so that US ratification of the text never took place.

During the AGBM negotiation process and thereafter, at several points in time, crucial negotiation breakthroughs were achieved so that negotiation deadlocks could be avoided. For instance, the US agreement with the legally-binding nature of greenhouse gas emission reduction or limitation targets (at AGBM-4) was an important step for continuing protocol design work. It clearly facilitated the flexibility in meeting mitigation targets as desired by the USA (flexibility in terms of geography, timing and a ‘basket’ with multiple greenhouse gases). At ‘Kyoto’, broadening the scope of the JI mechanism to developing countries (through the CDM) and allowing international quota trading between countries were important breakthroughs as these enabled developed countries to accept quantified emission reduction or limitation commitments.

Another main breakthrough took place at the resumed COP-6 meeting in July 2001 when countries agreed on a wider application of land use, land-use change and forestry as emission reduction option for meeting Kyoto Protocol commitments and on an overall compliance procedure. These two aspects triggered protocol support by Japan, the Russian Federation and Australia. Finally, a key breakthrough for the entry-into-force of the protocol was the EU agreement in May 2004 with Russian membership of the WTO, which strongly facilitated Russian ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2004.

During the negotiation process, several negotiation groups played prominent and decisive tactical and facilitating roles:

  • • The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) were prominent during the first stages of the negotiation process by tabling concrete proposals for overall emission reduction targets with clear equity principles. These proposals were particularly important as they were a reflection of the concerns of states directly threatened by climatic changes.
  • • The JUSSCANZ and later the Umbrella Group strongly argued in favour of emission reduction commitments for both developed and developing countries, especially those with rapidly growing economies and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This proposal was not agreed in the eventual Kyoto Protocol text, but in return for ‘losing’ this point, industrialised countries acquired more flexibility in complying with their commitments (as explained above).
  • • G-77&China negotiators managed to keep commitments for developing countries, even voluntary targets, out of the Kyoto Protocol, which they could claim as a success, but which also reduced the political support for the protocol by some developed countries and their compliance with protocol targets later on (see also Chap. 5).
  • • The Russian Federation position during protocol negotiations was characterised by ‘threats’ to support the OPEC Parties position and thus to refuse adoption of quantified emission reduction targets. Eventually, the Russian Federation was kept on board of the Kyoto Protocol coalition by agreeing that the country would stabilise its greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels, which granted the country with a large surplus of emission allowances to be traded with other countries.
  • • The EU, finally, faced several difficulties during the AGBM negotiations as its core proposal, mandatory policies and measures for Parties under the protocol, was not supported and eventually withdrawn. After the US withdrawal from the protocol in 2001, however, it was mainly the EU that took the lead to save the protocol through careful diplomacy.

At the stage of developing a climate regime during the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, probably the most important aspect was to obtain a broad international political support for a climate policy framework, either through quantified commitments or through non-quantifiable measures, such as reporting, awareness building, voluntary action, etc.[1] Eventually, the global climate ‘community’ was sufficiently determined to keep a global climate policy regime alive, when looking at the sudden increase in international diplomacy, both with involvement of industrialised and developing countries, after the US decision to withdraw itself from the Kyoto process and when the Russian Federation hesitated to ratify the protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol process has revealed some of the tactical characteristics of the international relations theories explained in Chap. 2. The behaviour of Australia, Japan, Russia and Canada during July-November 2001 (i.e., after the US withdrawal from the protocol) can be explained from a neo-realist perspective (Dessai and Schipper 2003), which states that countries look at the distribution of power among the other states and then assess what the prospects are for cooperation and making a deal. Realising that they, as a group, actually had veto power, the four countries did all they could to acquire the negotiation outcomes that they wanted. Nonetheless, also elements from constructivism can be found in the sense that the vast majority of Parties have continuously realised that individual decision-making on climate policy would lead to less beneficial (long-term) outcomes than multilateral cooperation would (Dessai and Schipper 2003).

With respect to the above observations, it can be concluded that the factor of tactics and facilitation has been of key importance during the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in several ways: emerging scientific knowledge creating a stronger sense of urgency, personalities with decisive value during key negotiation stages, linking Kyoto Protocol negotiations with external negotiation processes such as WTO (EU and Russia), and showing creativity by introducing new concepts and weighing other Parties’ responses to that. On the other hand, some tactical manoeuvres by key negotiators (such as by the US delegation at Kyoto in 1997) have, with hindsight, been less successful, as they led to short-term gains (adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at COP-3), but postponed or refused domestic acceptance at a later stage.

The assessment of Kyoto Protocol negotiations against the design, process and tactics factors is summarised in Table 4.2.

Table 4.2 Summary of design, procedural and tactical aspects of Kyoto Protocol negotiations

Description of negotiations per negotiation factor

Assessment of negotiations per factora

Design of




Global coverage, but with commitments for developed countries only

Both mitigation and adaptation


Common but differentiated responsibilities Precautionary principle Cost-effectiveness


Overall greenhouse gas reduction target (>5 % for developed countries) Differentiated commitments for developed countries


Flexibility in terms of timing (5-year commitment period)

Geographical flexibility (JI, CDM) Multiple greenhouse gases for compliance

  • (+) Key principles of the UNFCCC were considered in protocol (mainly precautionary actions and common but differentiated responsibilities)
  • (-) Uncertainties about developed countries’ domestic policy context and protocol implementation willingness remained (-) Compliance system was weak





Annual COP sessions Meetings of AGBM Bilateral country leader meetings (esp. 2001-2005)


AGBM enabled small step negotiations

Process started with focus on procedures, followed by detailed content discussions and concluded with high-pressure negotiations


COP chairs annually appointed AGBM chair appointment was longer term

Negotiation topics negotiated in working groups

  • (+) Sufficiently flexible process to enable an ongoing debate on climate change and policies (+) Distinction between political and technical issues
  • (-) After US withdrawal, UNFCCC negotiation process needed external support from bilateral negotiations outside Convention

Decisive tactics and facilitation

IPCC SAR 1995—indication of possible human impact on climate systems

UNFCCC Secretariat facilitated meetings by preparing negotiation texts in multiple languages

  • (+) Stronger sense of urgency, role of personalities, link with external negotiations (WTO), new concepts introduced
  • (+) Inclusion of world-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading instruments


Table 4.2 (continued)

Description of negotiations per negotiation factor

Assessment of negotiations per factora

AGBM-Chair Estrada and US Vice-President Gore had important roles towards COP-3 agreement on Kyoto Protocol

Inclusion of JI and CDM on global scale facilitated agreement on Annex I Party commitments EU recognition of Russia’s WTO ambitions supported Kyoto Protocol ratification

US withdrawal from Kyoto Protocol led to weaker compliance regime of protocol

(+) Facilitative Secretariat support (-) US agreement of Kyoto Protocol was not backed by US Congress support

a+ Means that an aspect positively contributed to successful negotiations and negotiation outcome; - Means that the contribution was negative

  • [1] Some authors argued that the Kyoto Protocol should be looked at as a learning-by-doingexperiment, to be improved in subsequent protocols (Dessai and Schipper 2003).
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