The Adequacy Of Commitments

During February 7-18 1994, a month before the convention came into force on 21 March, the INC again met and started to produce concrete proposals on many of the technical issues it had been discussing, for example by adopting the IPCC's draft guidelines on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories as its methodology for inventories (INC, 15 February 1994:2). However, it also began to think seriously about whether the commitments on limiting emissions in the convention were adequate to meeting the convention's objectives. The INC Secretariat produced a background document highlighting relevant issues, and outlined some of the options available to the INC (INC, 16 December 1993). The issue was discussed at length, and the Working Group Co-Chairs were able to report that the Committee, in general, thought that the commitments contained in Articles 4.2 (a) and (b) were inadequate to meet the objective of the convention (INC, 16 February 1994; ECO, 16 February 1994:6). However, at this point no industrialised countries were prepared to propose reductions in CO2 or other greenhouse gas emissions (ECO, 18 February 1994:2).27

This discussion continued and intensified in the meeting from 22 August to 2 September. Here, again in Geneva, the German delegation tabled a formal proposal for a protocol on CO2 emissions. This had been anticipated (ECO, 22 August 1994:1), and the final text proved a significant disappointment for environmental NGOs. They had been expecting a proposal to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2005, but instead the text read: 'At COP1.. .the Annex 1 Parties [industrialised countries] should commit themselves to reducing their CO2 emissions by the year (x) individually or jointly by (y) per cent' (quoted in ECO, 24 August 1994:1). Despite the introduction of a formal text into the proceedings which proposed CO2 reductions,28 the session remained deadlocked on the introduction of a protocol such as that proposed by the Germans (ECO, 2 September 1994:1). Despite the fact that it was Germany which had proposed it, the EU rapidly said it was not prepared to consider a protocol for COP1, and many developing countries were also opposed, believing it might be a pretext for commitments to be imposed on them (ECO, 2 September 1994), or in some cases even that OECD action itself would hurt their interests (Grubb, 1995:3). Oil-producing countries often presented their own interests in this way, suggesting OECD action would harm developing countries as a whole (e.g. see Al-Sabban, 1991).

In the end, the report of the meeting suggests that fewer countries believed that the existing commitments were inadequate than had done so in February. It simply says that some states felt there was no rationale for changing the commitments until new science emerged or until the implementation of existing commitments had occurred, and that others were in favour of making the commitments more stringent (INC, 10 October 1994:14-17). However, the major industrialised countries were all agreed that the commitments were inadequate (Pearce, 1994c).

During this period it was becoming clear that, while industrialised countries were agreeing that existing commitments needed to be strengthened, many were also accepting publicly that they were going to fail to meet their existing commitments. The Norwegian government was the first to do this (AcidNews, February 1995:11). Of the major ten emitters of CO2, only the UK, Germany and Russia (the last because of economic collapse) were likely to meet their stabilisation commitment, with the emissions of France, Japan, the US, Canada and Italy all likely to rise, as were those of the EU as a whole (China and India had no commitments under the convention) (Environment Digest, 1995, 2:9; Pearce, 1995:4; USCAN/CNE, 1995).

The final meeting of the INC before the COP in Berlin was held between 6 and 17 February 1995, in New York. It was here that the first discussions of AOSIS's proposed protocol took place. Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of AOSIS, had formally submitted a draft protocol in September 1994, the deadline required if a proposed change to the convention could be taken at COP1. The AOSIS proposal added to the German proposals by stating that, by 2005, emissions should be reduced by 20 per cent from 1990 levels (INC, 27 September 1994). NGOs and Germany applauded the text (GlobalEnvironmental Change Report VI, 19, 4 October 1994:3). The INC prepared recommendations for the first COP to consider on all the issues it had been discussing. Concerning the adequacy of the commitments on emissions in the convention, it gave no direct recommendations to the COP, but simply decided to 'transmit for consideration and appropriate action' the two proposed protocols from AOSIS states and from Germany to the COP (INC, 8 March 1995:51).

The positions of states at this point fell into three main groups. Most EU countries, and now the EU itself, were in favour of a mandate to tighten up the commitments in the convention, but not in favour of agreeing cuts at the COP1 itself (ENDS Report 241, February 1995:41). A group known as the 'JUSCANZ' group, made up of the delegations ofJapan, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, were prepared to accept that the commitments were inadequate but not to mandate that they be strengthened, particularly in the form of targets and timetables. The US and Australia were most hostile to the mention of 'reductions' in any agreed text from Berlin, and were also suggesting that, if industrialised countries' commitments were to be tightened, then developing countries should start undertaking commitments, especially the more affluent and industrialised ones. Developing countries were still at this point arguing that tightening up the commitments should not be negotiated until the state of implementation of existing ones was known. In the words of the G77 Chair, the delegate from the Philippines, 'active negotiations for...amendments of the Convention should take place only when we are sure that even the present commitments.can realistically be met' (quoted in Shlaes, 1995:5).29

At Berlin, the negotiators produced what many NGO commentators felt was highly disappointing. They had the option of agreeing a formal protocol on CO2 emissions on the lines of either the AOSIS or the German protocols, but opted simply to adopt a decision to start a process aimed at 'strengthening the commitments in Article 4.2 (a) and (b) of the Convention' (INC, 6 June 1995:5). The decision, known as the Berlin Mandate following a US proposal (INC, 24 May 1995:22), did formally state that the parties believed the existing Articles 4.2 (a) and (b) were inadequate, but simply deferred a decision on how to strengthen them. They agreed that the strengthened agreement should be negotiated by the Third COP in 1997 (INC, 6 June 1995:6).

However, the final agreed text was noticeably stronger than many countries had wanted. The oil-producing states, as well as China and the Russian Federation, had all opposed proposals to make the text specify that the commitments needed strengthening.30 While the AOSIS states were clearly unhappy that no agreement had been reached on emissions reductions at Berlin (INC, 24 May 1995:24), a push by India and other G77 states to isolate the oil producers seems to have ensured that the negotiators came away with a text that mandated negotiators to negotiate strengthening Articles 4.2 (a) and (b), by 1997 at the latest. After an Indianled G77 text was blocked by oil producers, India convened a group composed simply of 'like-minded states' which tabled a proposal, known as the 'Green Paper', which became the basis for the 'Berlin Mandate' (Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1995:28). India was thus credited, along with the EC, of brokering the deal with which countries left Berlin (ENDS Report 243, April 1995:43-4). In the end, the text was prevented from being stronger largely by the Republican victory in the Congressional elections in the US, which significantly curtailed the freedom of the US negotiators. This led to many seeing the US as adopting the same role as the one they had played in Rio (New Scienist, 8 April 1995:4).31

In addition to agreeing the Berlin Mandate, which went further than many expected, the technical aspects of the negotiations were also agreed at Berlin. Apart from a disagreement about the rules of procedure, with

OPEC countries trying to insist on consensus decision-making (giving them a veto), considerable progress was made on issues such as the methodologies for compiling inventories of greenhouse gas sources and sinks, as well as institutional issues. The GEF was confirmed as the financial mechanism (despite the objections of developing countries), and the structures of the Subsidiary Bodies on Implementation and on Scientific and Technical Advice were agreed (INC, 6 June 1995).

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