United Nations Climate Change Bulletin

Issue 14, 2th Quarter 1997


Table of contents

Status of the Berlin Mandate
IPCC issues new reports
Survey of climate scientists
Capacity Building in Africa
Prospects for AIJ in Africa
Calendars


The road to Kyoto
and an agreement that works

-- Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

"Kyoto in December" is starting to loom large in ministerial schedules and national policy agendas. The March 1997 session of the Berlin Mandate talks - the first to be held in Bonn - took them to the point where negotiation on the text of the Kyoto outcome can no longer be postponed. The coming months will witness increasing activity aimed at moving these formal negotiations forward. This activity will take place in caucuses, expert meetings, informal consultations, and at two high-profile events in June: the "Summit of the Eight" largest industrial countries, in Denver, Colorado, and the "Rio+5" special session of the United Nations General Assembly.

All of these impulses will feed back into the Convention process during the August and October sessions of the Ad hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (AGBM), also in Bonn. The final deal will be delivered by ministers gathering in Kyoto for the last three days of COP 3 (8-10 December).

So, where do we stand today? And what are the prospects?

In and around the AGBM

The AGBM's sixth session ended on 7 March with agreement on the elements to be included in the text that will serve as a basis for negotiations. Chairman Raul Estrada-Oyuela of Argentina received a mandate to complete the text in time for the secretariat to make it available in all six United Nations languages by 1 June 1997.

According to the rules of the game for adopting a protocol or amending the Convention, the seeds of the Kyoto outcome must be recognizably present in the 1 June text, even though the proposals it contains may be refined and target numbers for emissions cuts still added. The parameters of the remaining negotiations have thus been defined. This is an important step in any diplomatic process.

The March meeting also triggered an important political advance. The European Union (EU) finally reconciled the differing interests of its member States in a unified negotiating position, which was adopted by Ministers in Brussels and presented in Bonn. This was the first formal proposal from industrialized countries (Annex I Parties) to contain a numerical target for emissions reductions: 15% below 1990 levels by 2010 applicable initially to a basket of three gases - carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). The EU proposes that other gases be added later, and that there be an intermediate benchmark - still to be specified - in 2005. Previously, the best known target number on the table had been the proposal from small island developing countries (AOSIS) for a 20% cut in CO2 emissions below 1990 levels by the year 2005.

The EU challenge broke the ice among the major industrialized emitters. Some smaller Annex I Parties have rallied to the EU number. Some other targets have also been tabled, including one by developing countries that innovates by including a supplementary target for underachievers. However, the other Annex I industrial giants had not yet shown their target cards as of 30 May.

On the nature of targets

Observers of the negotiations, not to mention the negotiators, are keen to know what numbers will define the Kyoto target (or targets). One can speculate that some key elements of the EU position will turn up in the final text, such as the basket of gases, a bench mark at 2005, and perhaps the target year of 2010. But the targeted reductions and timeframes are likely to be the final pieces of the negotiating puzzle and will not be agreed before two major questions concerning the nature of the targets are resolved.

The first of these questions is "flexibility": Will a target be expressed as a certain level to be achieved by a specific date, or as a "budget" to be achieved over a period of several years? Can overachievement in a given period be "banked" for future use - and can a Party "borrow" (with a penalty charge) from the next budget period to cover underachievement during the current one? Will developed countries be allowed to achieve part or all of their committed emission reductions "offshore" at less cost - and less political pain - through joint implementation (JI) or emissions trading? ("Flexibility" is a leitmotif of the US position. Several other proposals by developed countries also favour JI and trading.)

The second question is "differentiation": Will the same target apply to all Annex I Parties (or at least to those that are OECD members, as opposed to those with economies in transition)? Or will each Annex I Party have an individual target that reflects its economic features (emissions intensity of GDP, for example), so as to equalize the economic costs to each country of achieving its target? ("Differentiation" is sought by several non-EU Parties, including Australia, Iceland, Japan, Norway, and Switzerland. The fact that the EU has shared out its proposed target internally among its 15 member States in different proportions gives a new spin to the debate on differentiation.)

All of the above begs the question of measurement and verification. The techniques for measuring emissions and reductions are gaining in reliability, notably for CO2 emissions. Some weak points remain as well, such as CO2 uptake by forests and methane emissions from agriculture. The point is that a legally-binding target, which is the goal of most negotiators (as well as joint implementation and trading, which are aims for some), will only work if implementation can be verified. This issue has not been at the forefront of the negotiations. Accounting and accountability deserve more attention in the development of targets and of mechanisms for achieving them.

What is to be done?

While targets indicate the desired effect of actions to limit emissions, they do not define the content of these actions. So far, the dominant theme of the strategic response to climate change has been "technology" - its development, application, and transfer. Climate-friendly technology is consistent with economic growth and provides opportunities for profitable investment, although it may raise the up-front cost of that investment. It also bridges North-South economic interests, although the terms of transfer from the one to the other may not be mutually advantageous.

Less is heard about consumption patterns and lifestyles which, in national politics, are often perceived as out of bounds to international negotiation or even as a good to be exported through "globalization". Yet the present consumption patterns of the rich cannot be generalized globally without unimagined consequences for resource management and environmental security. So it is necessary to bring about sensible changes in those patterns, through education and incentives, that could be "globalized" beneficially for all. Precedents for such dissemination of good practice are to be found in the health sector. In the quest for sustainable development, there are policy approaches available that simultaneously address both technology and lifestyle: technical standards and fiscal measures that stimulate both technological innovation and change in consumption habits.

In the negotiations leading up to Kyoto, the question of what actions to take comes to the fore under the label "policies and measures". The key issue is: Should the Kyoto instrument prescribe common policies and measures for developed countries so that they can maintain a "level playing field" in their external trade and avoid distorting competition? Or should it allow maximum flexibility for each country to choose how to achieve an agreed emissions target in the manner it considers best suited to its circumstances? The former view informs the EU position; the latter is espoused by the US. The debate continues.

In considering this dilemma with detachment, one has to bear in mind that climate change is a new policy area (unlike trade, for example). Countries are still feeling their way. Their basic commitment is to exchange information about their efforts and experiences through "national communications". It will be some time before replicable recipes for success emerge from these communications and their review.

Meanwhile, the Convention itself points to how the dilemma might be resolved by requiring Annex I Parties to coordinate among themselves "relevant economic and administrative instruments developed to achieve the objective of the Convention" (Article 4.2(e)(i)).

Who is to do it?

Hovering over these debates among developed countries are global emissions trends. As the material well-being of their growing populations improves, the total emissions of developing countries will overtake the total emissions of developed countries.

Clearly, the Convention's ultimate objective of stabilizing global greenhouse gas concentrations at a "safe" level is not going to be achieved by the presently "developed" countries alone. Because of their large historical contribution to global emissions and their high emissions per head, these countries are morally obliged to take the lead in cutting emissions so as to modify global trends. But in the longer term their efforts could be negated by the growth of emissions from developing countries.

Yet developing countries will not consider limiting their emissions, and thus placing a new constraint on their economic growth, until they are convinced that developed countries are serious about cutting theirs. The evidence from the latter is, so far, not convincing. With respect to the Convention's aim of returning their emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000, the first round of national communications supports the prediction that no Annex I Party will achieve the 1990/2000 aim on account of policies explicitly addressing climate change. (One can argue that it does not matter why they achieve the aim, as long as they do so; but a happy accident it is not a rational strategy and is unlikely to be repeated.) There is little time left for more vigorous climate policies in OECD countries to disprove this forecast; meanwhile, emissions from the economies in transition will start to increase as their economies pick up speed after restructuring.

Thus, the Berlin Mandate is about strengthening the commitments of Annex I Parties. It excludes new commitments for developing country Parties. Such commitments may well evolve from the regular reviews of implementation called for under Article 7.2 of the Convention and from future negotiations that may result.

Some developed country negotiators, however, feel the need to show now that developing countries are coming on board. Hence, they have made a number of proposals ranging from voluntary adherence to emission targets by developing countries to a commitment by these countries to negotiate binding targets in the years ahead.

Even though such developing country targets could be for limiting the rate of growth in emissions, rather than for stabilizing or reducing them, this is perhaps the most sensitive area of the current talks. It is complicated by the concern of some developing countries - notably oil exporters - that they will suffer economic losses as a result of emissions reduction in developed countries.

Meanwhile, developing country Parties are gearing up to produce their initial national communications, their first step into the mainstream of the Convention process. Progress has been slow; adequate financial and technical support for them is urgently needed. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has the lead responsibility for ensuring this support. A successful conclusion to discussions on the GEF's status in the Convention and on the replenishment of its funds will be an important part of the Kyoto package, although not part of the actual Kyoto instrument.

The end of the road?

The climate road does not end in Kyoto. It has a long way to go to keep greenhouse gas concentrations under control in accordance with the Convention's objective.

Kyoto is an important staging point and a signpost to what lies ahead. The Kyoto "protocol or another legal instrument" must make a strong mark on the evolution of climate policy. It must give a convincing signal to markets that business as usual will not do. It must trigger changes in policy-making, investment and consumption, notably in the energy and transport sectors.

The time between now and December is short and could be dissipated on detail. The key to success is a strong target that will shift long-term trends in emissions, as the Convention requires. This target should be:

* clearly understood by political and public opinion;

* technically verifiable; and

* buttressed by an effective mechanism for reviewing implementation.

This review process must engage governments from the start; it should not be set in a future so distant that governments now in office will not feel accountable for their performance in moving towards the target. Hence the importance of a 2005 checkpoint.

Processes for achieving the target, such as budgeting, banking and borrowing, and joint implementation or emissions trading, can be agreed in principle in Kyoto with the details worked out over the two years before the instrument takes effect in 2000. Future negotiating steps can also be mapped out in that time.


New IPCC papers
on stabilization
and models

-- N. Sundararaman, Secretary, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC has recently published its second and third Technical Papers in response to requests by the Convention's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

IPCC Technical Papers provide policymakers with the scientific and technical information they need to deal with specific issues. They are based on the IPCC's Second Assessment Report and other reports and are reviewed by both experts and governments.

These two new papers were prepared under the auspices of Working Group I, which focuses on the climate system. Technical Paper II is "An Introduction to Simple Climate Models used in the IPCC Second Assessment Report". This primer on the climate system and simple models explains how these models work, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how their results are used.

The Paper also documents the procedures and assumptions used by these models to generate for given greenhouse gas emissions the resulting GHG concentrations, global mean temperature change, and global mean sea-level rise.

Technical Paper III is entitled "Stabilization of Atmospheric Greenhouse Gases: Physical, Biological and Socio-Economic Implications". It explores a range of stabilization profiles for CO2 ranging from 350 to 1,000 ppmv* and deduces the emissions limits that would be necessary to achieve them.

The Paper then reviews the expected temperature and sea-level changes for each profile and the ensuing environmental consequences. There is also a discussion of the associated mitigation costs.

These Technical Papers will soon be available on the IPCC's web site at http://www.unep.ch/ipcc. While supplies last they can also be ordered in English, French, and Spanish from the IPCC Secretariat, c/o WMO, C.P. 2300, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, fax (+41-22) 733 1270, e-mail IPCC_Sec@gateway.wmo.ch.

* parts per million by volume


Survey explores
views of 400
climate scientists

-- Dennis Bray, Meteorologisches Institut der Universitat Hamburg and GKSS Forschungszentrum, and Hans von Storch, GKSS Forschungszentrum

The views of climate scientists about the prospect of global warming are naturally of vital concern to people participating in the climate debate. It is also interesting to know what climate scientists think about the inner workings of their science, including modeling, the relationship between climate scientists and policymakers, and the relationship between climate scientists and the media.

In an effort to quantify such views, we derived a set of questions from themes raised in a series of 43 in-depth interviews with climate scientists in Canada, Germany and the US. One thousand self-administered anonymous surveys were then distributed in a one-time mailing to 460 US, 40 Canadian, and 500 German scientists.

The North American sample was drawn from the EarthQuest mailing list. Since this list contains more than scientists involved in the climate sciences, we could not use a true random sampling technique, and instead selected names on the basis of institutional and disciplinary affiliation.

The German sample was drawn from a random sample of the Deutsche Meteorogische Gesellschaft mailing list, for reasons of confidentiality by the organization itself, resulting in a total of 450 subjects. A further 50 surveys were given to members of the Max Planck Institut fur Meteorologie and the Meterologiches Institut der Universitat Hamburg, for a total sample of 500 German scientists.

The overall response rate was good, approximately 40%: 228 from Germany, 149 from the US, and 35 from Canada, for a total return of 412 completed surveys. Some of the results are presented below.

Strongly (dis)agree

We asked the scientists if they believe that "We can say for certain that global warming is a process already underway", a stronger formulation than the IPCC's "balance of evidence." We asked them to agree or disagree with the statement using a rating scale of 1 - 7, with 1 equal to "strongly agree" and 7 "strongly disagree".

With an overall mean response of 3.3, the majority of scientists who responded to the survey tended to agree that global warming is indeed a process already underway (Figure 1). There were no statistically significant differences among the mean responses of Americans (3.4), Canadians (2.9), and Germans (3.3). However, the percentage of respondents "strongly agreeing" with the statement ranged from 3% in the US to 13% in Germany and 23% in Canada.

Turning to the theory, rather than the detection, of climate change, we asked if "We can say for certain that, without changes in human behavior, global warming will definitely occur sometime in the future." The overall mean response of 2.58 indicates a relatively higher level of agreement that global warming will occur without changes in human behavior. The mean responses by country also clustered together quite closely. (See Figure 2.)

The was also strong agreement that, regardless of whether climate change is apparent yet or not, there is a need for immediate policy decisions. With a value of 7 indicating a strong sense that policy decisions are needed, the mean of 5.6 indicates that policy decisions are perceived as being of immediate importance. (Figure 3.)

Finally, in an effort to explain the scientists' perceptions of the need for policy, they were asked "To what degree do you think climate change will have detrimental effects for some societies?" With 1 representing "a great degree", the overall mean of 2.37 shows that respondents generally think that climate change would indeed result in negative impacts, perhaps explaining their support for policy decisions.

For more information please contact:

Dennis Bray, Meteorologisches Institut der Universitat, Bundesstrasse 55, D-20146 Hamburg, e-mail bray@dkrz.de, tel. (+49) 40 41173 228, or Hans von Storch, GKSS Forschungszentrum, Max-Planck-Strasse, D-21502 Geesthacht, e-mail storch@gkss.de, tel. (+49) 41 5287 1831.


Building capacity
in Africa
for AIJ

-- Joe Asamoah, Chief Energy Specialist, Department of Minerals and Energy, South Africa

Although the pilot phase for Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) is half over (ending by 1999), AIJ has yet to be demystified in many African countries. Adopting a wait-and-see attitude, however, may cause Africa to miss out on the opportunities AIJ offers for attracting private sector funds.

The Climate Change Convention does not oblige developing countries to abate their greenhouse gas emissions. This can provide negotiating leverage to ensure that AIJ agreements lead to the transfer of technologies that are appropriate for sustainable development.

African countries should therefore not allow the bitter experiences of past development aid transfers to prevent the exploration of AIJ on its own merits.

Information and training

A look at the world-wide map of AIJ activities reveals a dearth of projects in Africa. This is primarily due to a lack of information and of institutional capacity. Clearly, the high concentration of AIJ projects in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe is no accident. It reflects at least in part the inherent capacity of countries in these regions to take on and manage AIJ projects.

During the current AIJ pilot phase, countries are building capacity, moving up the learning curve, and accumulating experience in preparation for a possible full-fledged AIJ regime after the year 2000. If African countries, which are preoccupied by bread-and-butter issues, are to participate meaningfully and constructively in projects that limit greenhouse gas emissions, then the developed North will have to help make this possible by supporting more capacity-building activities.

More training workshops for stakeholders are urgently needed on the technical, socio-economic, and political aspects of AIJ. The pivotal stakeholders are government departments, NGOs, community-based organisations (CBOs), industries, insurance agencies, academics, and researchers.

  • The workshops should include case studies on existing AIJ pilot projects that take participants through conception, planning, design, feasibility studies, proposal submissions, implementation, monitoring, control, and evaluation. Audio-visual aids and basic documents on the Convention and on AIJ are needed in local languages to better inform stakeholders.
  • In addition to workshops, there is an enormous unmet demand for the widespread dissemination of information materials. Library collections, awareness raising campaigns, greater Internet access, and the introduction of environmental management into the curricula of schools and colleges are all essential.
  • Together, improved access to information and increased institutional capacity will not only increase African participation in AIJ projects, but will strengthen immensely Africa's overall ability to respond to climate change and its expected impacts.
  • Joe Asamoah is a member of the Working Group of the National Committee on Climate Change and can be contacted at the Department of Minerals and Energy, 234 Visagie St. Pretoria, South Africa, tel. +27-12-317-9212, fax. +27-12-322-5224, e-mail: joe@mepta.pwv.gov.za


    Capacity Building:
    Lessons from
    Sub-Saharan Africa

    -- M. K. Cisse, Y. Sokona and J-Philippe Thomas, Environnement et Developpement du Tiers-Monde (ENDA-TM)

    Although climate change is a global environmental issue, neither the industrial causes of the problem nor the tools for analyzing it originate in sub-Saharan Africa.

    As a result, Africa faces a complex economic, scientific, and social issue without having the necessary scientific background, tradition of public awareness and mobilization, or financial and institutional resources. The infrastructure for evaluating the risks and identifying the strategies appropriate to the African context are by and large absent.

    Framework for action

    It is for this reason that the Climate Change Convention, the Global Environment Facility, and other global institutions have placed such an emphasis on capacity building.

    Capacity building means providing a framework for identifying, formulating, and implementing projects. Efforts to build capacity should maximize the use of existing skills and resources and, crucially, ensure that the conclusion of any particular climate change project is not the end of the road.

    Capacity building goes beyond the transfer of funds, technology, and know-how. It recognizes that implementing the Convention in sub-Saharan Africa will require an adequate institutional framework that is grounded in strong social relations among a number of competent organizations that together will form the national climate change working group.

    Institutions and organizations with the competence to participate in climate change projects do exist: it is the framework for concerted action that is absent. The organization and co-ordination of the various participants must be catalyzed to ensure that work programmes are defined, information exchanged, decisions taken, and results published.

    ENDA, as the African Regional Partner for UNITAR's CC: Train Phase II, and co-ordinator of a GEF-funded capacity building project of the UN Development Programme has been engaged in such catalytic work for some time. Our experience confirms that effective capacity building requires the creation of effective institutional relationships that are capable of harnessing and exploiting local expertise.

    Institutional relationships

    Three key questions must be posed to ensure that the institutional relationships will be stable: (i) Which organizations are to be involved? (ii) What kind of institutional relationships need to be established between them? (iii) How are these relationships to be established?

    Choosing the relevant organizations is not simply a matter of gauging institutional competence. Organizations ought to be chosen according to their proven expertise, their modus operandi (ideally based on a participative, progressive, and dynamic organizational culture), and their capacity for working with others.

    These organizations may include government bodies, universities, research centres, NGOs, or even private companies. Thought must be given to the complementarity of the various organizations in order to avoid unnecessary overlap of expertise.

    As to the kind of institutional relationships needed in an effective country working group, they must be founded on the social relations (i.e. not just the formal or official relations) of the partners. They must also be based on confidence and driven by a common sense of purpose that goes beyond any individual member's particular expertise.

    At the same time, these relationships must be established transparently, with a mutual recognition of the distinctive expertise of each partner, and the affirmation of equal stakes in a project's results. Coordination is therefore of paramount importance. This is as true when the working group's initial terms of reference are defined as when project results are yielded later on.

    Coordination therefore has to be achieved flexibly rather than hierarchically, reflecting the spirit of the terms of reference - which constitute the contractual basis of the enterprise - rather than the letter.

    How, then, should these effective institutional relations be established? As there is clearly no given model, the approach must be to take account of the particular circumstances of the participating partners and the nature and objectives of the planned activities.

    In general, then, the development of institutional relationships can be achieved through a logical and sequential series of steps:

    * Identify and support those (national and regional) organizations that are well placed to develop an expertise in the field of climate change, provided that those institutions have already shown their ability to conduct regional activities;

    * Define and negotiate a mandate or agreement for the chosen institutions within the framework of existing bilateral and multi-lateral development programmes, recognizing that this mandate will be eventually renegotiated in the context of the pilot structure;

    * Identify and support national multidisciplinary institutions, from both the public and private sectors, to analyze the results and develop programmes; and

    * Equip the country working groups with the tools they need for exchanging and disseminating the results of their work.

    Harnessing local expertise

    If capacity building is to be sustainable, it must be based on local expertise and experience. However, it is not enough for climate change projects to reinforce decision-making and research capabilities: where possible they must also help to weave the networks of institutional relationships that are vital to fully involving and exploiting local expertise.

    The first task for each country is to identify local expertise. There is no need to replace existing expertise or to start from scratch. Existing expertise can be strengthened by adapting the methods of capacity building to local particularities, for example by transmitting skills and know-how through apprenticeships, "on-the-job" training, technological support, informal communications, and so on.

    Capacity building should be a unified process within which discrete activities are organized and delivered in a logical order. It should be tightly linked to the actual need for project outputs. The sequence of capacity-building steps should be scheduled in accordance with the national commitments - inventories, adaptation, vulnerability and mitigation studies, national communications, national development plans and strategies, and so on.

    It must not be forgotten that whatever the early objectives of the climate change projects may be, capacity building is above all a long-term process. The long-term domestic development of local organizations must be emphasized. The success of both the projects themselves and the project recipients depends on such an approach.

    For further information please contact:
    ENDA-TM Energy Programme,
    54 Rue Carnot, BP 3370
    Dakar, Senegal.

    Tel: (221) 22 24 96 / 22 59 83 e-mail: energy2@enda.sn
    Fax: (221) 21 75 95 / 23 51 5 website: http://www.enda.sn


    IPCC Calendar

    September 22, Maldives
    IPCC-Thirteenth Session to begin

    September 23-24, Maldives
    IPCC WG II

    September 25-28, Maldives
    IPCC-Thirteenth Session Resumed

    Convention Calendar

    July 28-August 7, Bonn
    SBSTA-6
    SBI-6
    AG13-5
    AGBM-7

    October 20-31, Bonn
    AGBM-8
    SBI-7
    SBSTA-7

    December 1-10, Kyoto
    COP-3