Ministers Agree Process But Fail to Give GuidanceBuenos Aires - Two weeks of negotiations at the UN climate conference, characterised by WWF as "trench warfare among bureaucrats", concluded today with governments only agreeing to a list of items for negotiation in the next two years. But a bigger, slower movement is clearly underway as governments begin to wrestle with new international mechanisms for combating climate change, and progressive industries start to reduce their emissions beyond Kyoto targets.
At the close of the conference, governments started a process to agree rules for the Kyoto Protocol's "flexibility mechanisms" and a procedure for compliance which should be completed by autumn 2000. But they failed to include any environmental principles for driving the process.
Governments from more than 170 countries have been meeting to agree how to proceed with operationalising mechanisms supposedly designed to give teeth to last year's Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol includes the modest target for industrialised countries of reducing their emissions of global warming gases 5 per cent below 1990 levels in the period 2008-2012.
WWF welcomed the slight progress at the talks: "It's another small turn on the rudder of the climate change supertanker. But governments have much more to do to steer clear of the rocks," said Lars Georg Jensen, leader of the WWF delegation.
The plan for further negotiations only emerged in the early hours of Friday morning after Ministers had intervened during the second week to rescue the conference from abysmal failure. To compensate for the marginal progress that the conference achieved, WWF wants Ministers to introduce new policies at home to promote solutions like improving energy efficiency and renewable energy before the Protocol comes into force.
"Civil servants achieved absolutely nothing in Buenos Aires," said Jensen. "Until Ministers arrived, the hurricane of climate change was blowing in the world outside while here, at the eye of the storm, there was an eerie silence." Governments came to Buenos Aires talking of an action plan for moving ahead with the Kyoto Protocol. Ministers have just managed to prevent a recipe for inaction from emerging from the alphabet soup of Kyoto Protocol articles.
"Governments have obviously moved well beyond discussing the science - that's a good development. But they need to do more to respond to growing public fears as the impacts of climate change become increasingly apparent, " said Jensen.
There were no expectations of major developments from Buenos Aires compared with last year's breakthrough agreement that produced the Kyoto Protocol. Despite a year of climate-related disasters, Ministers failed to agree strong environmental principles for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, or to reintroduce the science back into the process. The technical workplan agreed in Buenos Aires does move things forward but it provides no assurance that any of the Kyoto loopholes will be closed.
Positive moves at the conference included the United States' signature of the Protocol as the last of the industrialised polluters, although this requires no additional action on the part of the US. Argentina's announcement that it would develop commitments similar to those of industrialised countries has also altered the political landscape in the talks, as has the emergence of strong regional blocs such as Africa in the G77 group.
For more information, please contact Andrew Kerr (firstname.lastname@example.org), Communications Manager, WWF Climate Change Campaign