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Trying to Extend the Kyoto Protocol (2005-2009)

Bali: The Bali Action Plan

After the entry-into-force of the Kyoto Protocol in February 2005, a legally-binding regime was in place to govern international climate policy making until the end of 2012. All in all, the process of negotiating the protocol during 1995-1997 under the Berlin Mandate, adopting it in Kyoto in 1997, and having it ratified by a sufficient number of countries (i.e., 55 countries and 55 % of developed countries’ greenhouse gas emissions covered by ratifications) had taken ten years. Negotiators therefore realised that the time left for countries to agree on a new climate deal for the period after 2012 and have this ratified by enough countries on time was shorter than that: seven years only.

It is therefore that negotiations immediately started early 2005 with an informal ‘Comfy Armchair’ session held in Bonn (Germany) with country negotiators elaborating on possible directions for a future climate policy regime (IISD 2005). While that meeting was set up in a relaxed mode, soon it became clear, also at next negotiation meetings, that many developed countries could not see a future climate regime without legally binding commitments for rapidly growing developing countries, while these countries themselves referred to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities by arguing that it was, given historical emission patterns, developed countries’ responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions first.

In fact, in terms of tension and ‘North-South’ divide, the story of the Kyoto negotiations continued, but this time it was more clear what was at stake. For example, scientific information about climate change and its potential damage had become much more detailed and convincing, showing how human action could affect climatic systems and what could be the risks of that (IPCC 2007; Gore 2006). It caused more countries to point out the need for urgent action and resulted in concrete proposals by for example the EU, which had just started an ambitious internal emissions trading scheme covering all Member States and over 12,000 installations (European Parliament & European Council 2003). The increased sense of urgency versus the debate between developed and developing countries about who should undertake legally-binding emission reduction commitments added much complexity to the negotiation process and required taking on board the lessons from the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in terms of process flexibility and applying the right tactics and skills at the right moment.

Given the tight time schedule it was important to reach a milestone at COP-13 at Bali (December 2007) in the form of an action plan towards an agreement on a post-Kyoto climate regime well before 2012. In the worst case, negotiators believed, a short transition period would be needed to cover the time between the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the beginning of a next commitment period.

In any case, time was short and it was soon felt that should ‘Bali’ fail, this would be a serious setback in the process of shaping an international climate policy regime along the lines recommended by IPCC (2007) and increasingly hoped for by the general public. As often at COP sessions, the final hours of the negotiations were full of drama, tension and nervous working on texts (Mfiller 2008), even though the focus in the end was on mainly one sentence in the draft decision text.

The crucial paragraph during the final hours of the negotiations was paragraph 1.b.ii of the Draft decision text, which dealt with mitigation actions by developing countries. In the draft text, two alternative formulations for this paragraph were included (‘bracketed’). According to one formulation, developing countries would undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner, thereby supported by developed countries (through financial, technological and capacity building support). The second formulation was slightly different and seemed to imply that the financing, technology and capacity building support by developed countries would have to be measurable, reportable and verifiable. A slight difference in wording could thus have strong implications.

There was a problem when the COP President presented a final draft text in which the first formulation (measurable, reportable and verifiable mitigation actions for developing countries) was included while the second was not. India protested and after hectic deliberations and postponed and interrupted plenary sessions, the second formulation was suggested by the G-77&China instead of the first one. This was unacceptable for the US delegation because they feared that the second formulation was too flexible for developing countries in terms of their future mitigation actions. Eventually, the delegation of South Africa explained that the text was a reflection of the willingness expressed by developing countries during the Bali meeting to voluntarily commit themselves to measurable, reportable and verifiable mitigation actions.

Eventually, it was this explanation that made the US delegation adopt the Decision by COP-13 on the Bali Action Plan: “... to launch a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012, ..., by addressing inter alia: . (b) Enhanced national/international action on mitigation of climate change,

including, inter alia, consideration of: . (ii) Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country Parties in the context of sustainable development, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building, in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner” (UNFCCC 2008, p. 3, para 1).

Perhaps equally important in this COP decision was paragraph 1.b.1, which stated that all developed countries will consider “measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions, including quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives, ..., while ensuring the comparability of efforts among them, taking into account differences in their national circumstances.” This paragraph also covered the involvement of developed countries that were not part of the Kyoto Protocol, such as the USA and Turkey, in a future climate policy regime.

Interestingly, the Bali Action Plan spoke about developed and developing countries instead of the formal Annex I Parties and non-Annex I jargon as in earlier COP decisions. According to IISD (2007, p. 19), this could be considered both a breakthrough and a risk. On the one hand, it created “a prospect of moving beyond the constraints of working within only Annex I and non-Annex I countries when defining future contributions to a future agreement”. On the other hand, however, some developing countries expressed concern that this new distinction might lead to a situation in which some present Annex I Parties “would seize on this development to ‘jump ship’ and attempt to adopt more relaxed commitments than those under the Kyoto Protocol” (IISD 2007, p. 19). One consequence of the new distinction between developed and developing countries might be that some present non-Annex I Parties may in a future climate regime be considered developed countries.

Process-wise, the Bali COP launched a new negotiation track called the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), which co-existed with the already established Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol [AWG-KP, established at COP-11 in 2005 (UNFCCC 2006, p. 3)]. The main reason for launching the AWG-LCA was to ensure that also countries that had not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, in particular the USA, would still be included in the negotiations on a future climate policy regime. AWG-LCA thus enabled a more inclusive negotiation process on future climate policy making and it could also open discussions for actions to be taken by developing countries (as the AWG-KP only focussed on further commitments for developed countries). Formally, the AWG-LCA negotiation track would have to be concluded in 2009 at COP-15, to be held in Copenhagen, with an agreed climate policy regime for the period after 2012.

Whether the Bali Action Plan would lead to success in Copenhagen obviously remained to be seen, but the outcome of the ‘Bali COP’ led to a general feeling of optimism about next negotiation steps. It seemed that the momentum created by Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ (Gore 2006) and the IPCC reports of 2007 (IPCC 2007) had been continued at the COP. The process that was started at Bali and which needed to result in a new climate policy regime in 2009, resembled the process that was started in 1995 at COP-1 with the ‘Berlin Mandate’ (AGBM) and which led to the Kyoto Protocol (see Chap. 4). In the next sections the developments with negotiations, based on the Bali Action Plan, towards the Copenhagen Climate Conference are described.

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