COP 8 India

Conference of the Parties 8 (COP 8)
Climate Talks in New Delhi

October 23 - Novomber 1, 2002


The Eighth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP-8) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change met in New Delhi from October 23 to November 1, 2002, in conjunction with the seventeenth sessions of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI).

With most of the issues relating to implementation rules for the Kyoto Protocol resolved at COP-7 in Marrakech - but the Protocol not yet in force - the formal agenda at COP-8 was comprised mostly of second-order and technical issues. Indeed, some dubbed the meeting "a COP between COPs." However, beyond the formal agenda - in political statements and in hallway discussions - COP-8 also saw the emergence of a vigorous debate over next steps in the development of the climate change regime. The wide differences among parties on that question was reflected in the difficult, at times bitter, negotiations over the Delhi Declaration, a broad political statement meant to reflect the consensus among parties at COP-8.

The United States, while reiterating its opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, was deeply engaged in the negotiations as a party to the Framework Convention and as a member of the Umbrella Group (developed countries outside the European Union and Eastern Europe). Having repeatedly cited the lack of developing country commitments as a primary basis for its rejection of Kyoto, the United States struck a far different tone in Delhi, declaring that it would be "unfair" to insist that developing countries adopt greenhouse gas targets. The United States also pressed hard on a number of issues that, while largely procedural in nature, appeared to take on broader significance as a test of other parties' willingness to accommodate U.S. concerns.

An overriding emphasis for many parties was the importance of bringing Kyoto into force as quickly as possible. Ninety-six countries - including the European Union nations, Japan, China, India and Mexico - have ratified the Protocol. Its entry into force now hinges on ratification by Russia, which would achieve the necessary threshold of ratification by 55 parties accounting for 55 percent of developed country carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. Although Russian representatives at COP-8 offered conflicting signals on the likely timing of a ratification decision, there remained optimism that Russia would ratify sometime in 2003.

Although most of the issues were relatively minor compared to those in the Bonn Agreement and Marrakech Accords reached at COP-6.5 and COP-7, respectively, parties often stuck to entrenched positions and, overall, made little significant progress. Many of the issues were deferred for further consideration at future meetings. Among the outcomes, COP-8:

  • Adopted the Delhi Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
  • Adopted rules of procedure for the executive board of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
  • Completed work on the reporting required of developed countries to assess their compliance under the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Adopted guidance to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for managing two new funds established at COP-7 to assist developing countries.
  • Adopted new guidelines for national communications to be submitted by developing countries reporting on their emissions and steps they are taking to meet their commitments under the Framework Convention.
  • Requested the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Montreal Protocol's Technological and Economic Assessment Panel to conduct a special report on the question of HFCs/PFCs - compounds that have replaced ozone-depleting substances but contribute to climate change.

Delhi Declaration

As the host of COP-8, the Indian government set as a principal objective the adoption of a Delhi Declaration, a broad political statement meant to signify the meeting's success. An initial draft circulated by the Indian chair of the conference reflected a strong developing country perspective, emphasizing the issues of sustainable development, adaptation, and implementation by developed countries of their commitments under the Framework Convention.

The draft was silent on the question of steps beyond Kyoto's first commitment period (2008-2012), prompting strong objections from the European Union and some other developed countries (see below). While the United States was largely content with the Indian draft, it concurred in comments by the Umbrella Group calling for acknowledgement of the need for "global participation" in addressing climate change. The G-77, representing developing countries, called for a stronger emphasis on financial assistance and on the adverse economic effects on developing countries of measures taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As adopted, the Delhi Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change on Sustainable Development makes no reference to future steps to further elaborate the climate regime. It largely underscores principles established in the Framework Convention and themes adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development earlier this year in Johannesburg. The Declaration states that:

  • Parties that have ratified Kyoto strongly urge others to do so in a timely manner (as nations declared in Johannesburg).
  • The IPCC's Third Assessment Report confirms that significant cuts in global emissions will be necessary to meet the Convention's ultimate objective.
  • All parties should continue to advance the implementation of their Convention commitments, and developed countries should demonstrate that they are taking the lead in modifying long-term emission trends.
  • Economic and social development and poverty eradication are the overriding priorities of developing countries.
  • Urgent action is needed to enable countries, and in particular the least developed and small island countries, to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
  • Actions are required to develop cleaner, more efficient and affordable energy technologies, including fossil fuel and renewable energy technologies.
  • Actions are required, with a sense of urgency, to substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources.

While the Declaration was adopted by consensus, in statements in the closing plenary the European Union, Japan and Canada expressed disappointment that it did not offer a clearer long-term vision. The EU said it would submit its own statement for the record. Developing countries and the United States expressed strong support for the Declaration. Nigeria expressly thanked the United States for serving as a "constructive force" in the negotiations.

See the Delhi Declaration here. (pdf format)

Future Commitments

Although not squarely before the parties as a matter for negotiation, the looming issue of future commitments heavily shaped the political dynamic of COP-8 and dominated much of the political dialogue. Developing countries continued to publicly oppose any suggestion that they take on some form of emission target. Among developed countries, there was a striking reversal of roles by the European Union and the United States, with the former pressing the question of future steps and the latter declaring such discussion premature.

The EU, in its response to the draft Delhi Declaration, called for establishment of a "forward-looking process" following Kyoto's entry into force to consider what actions should be taken after 2012. It said the process should be conducted with a view to "a more inclusive and long-term global cooperation based on broader and balanced participation." In a statement to the plenary, Denmark, which holds the EU presidency, said the EU "is not talking about imposing emission reduction targets on developing countries," but reiterated the call for a new process to broaden participation. The EU's views were echoed by some other developed countries, in particular Australia and Canada.

In his address to the conference, Indian Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee strongly rejected "misplaced" calls for a process leading to developing country commitments. He argued that per capita incomes and emissions are much lower in developing countries, and that the developing country contribution to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will remain small compared to that of industrialized nations "for several decades to come."

In the past, the United States has led calls for stronger action by developing countries. In Delhi, however, the United States declared that "it would be unfair - indeed, counterproductive - to condemn developing nations to slow growth or no growth by insisting that they take on impractical and unrealistic greenhouse gas targets."

CDM Executive Board

The CDM, one of the Kyoto Protocol's flexibility mechanisms, allows developed countries to meet their emission targets in part with certified emission reductions (CERs) generated through emission reduction and sinks projects in developing countries. At COP-7, the parties adopted general rules for the CDM and established an interim executive board to get the CDM under way pending Kyoto's entry into force. It is anticipated that COP/MOP-1 (the first meeting of Kyoto parties following the Protocol's entry into force) will ratify the decisions of the interim executive board and the COP and that the interim board will become permanent.

The executive board submitted a report to COP-8 outlining its activities during the past year (including the development of rules and modalities for small-scale CDM projects and accreditation procedures for operating entities) and proposing rules of procedure, which were adopted by the parties with a few modifications.

One of the most contentious issues, pressed by the United States, concerned attendance by observers at meetings of the executive board. Under the informal procedures used by the executive board, observers have not been allowed in the meeting room but instead must watch the proceedings on video. The executive board and Secretariat contend that these arrangements are more economical and allow for greater intimacy and informality. The United States, which having rejected Kyoto is considered an observer, insists that "attendance" means access to the meeting room. It was decided that, in its annual reports, the executive board would inform the COP how it is addressing the attendance issue.

Reporting Requirements Under the Kyoto Protocol

Parties completed a set of detailed guidelines on how developed country parties to the Kyoto Protocol must account for the several types of emission units established by the Protocol and their transfers of these units through Kyoto's flexibility mechanisms - emissions trading, joint implementation, and the CDM.

The guidelines require tracking and reporting of emission units and transfers in a uniform format to allow linkage of national emission registries. They also establish procedures for expert review of registries to assess compliance with the Protocol, including the requirement that parties keep a portion of their emission units off the market in a "commitment period reserve" to ensure they do not sell units needed to meet their targets. Parties found out of compliance with the reporting requirements can be deemed ineligible to participate in the trading mechanisms.

Funding

Funding to assist developing countries in meeting their Convention commitments and in coping with climate change impacts continued to be a divisive issue.

At COP-7, the parties established three new funds to assist developing countries, and a group of developed countries pledged a total of approximately $400 million. At COP-8, developing countries pressed for funding to implement adaptation projects, detailed guidance to the GEF for managing the new funds, and regular contributions to the funds. The COP adopted guidance to GEF on two of the funds established in Marrakech - the least developed countries fund, and the special climate change fund. In addition, the parties requested that the UNFCCC and GEF secretariats undertake a comprehensive assessment of developing needs and submit a report at SB-20 (in summer 2004); and requested the GEF to review its project cycle, with a view to making it simpler and more efficient.

HFCs/PFCs

The emission targets established under Kyoto apply to a "basket" of six greenhouse gases, including HFCs and PFCs, two classes of substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. The Protocol gives parties flexibility as to which of the six gases to control.

Since Kyoto, the EU has continued to focus special attention on HFCs and PFCs. As part of their domestic climate change policies, several EU states have imposed or are considering phaseout schedules for HFCs and PFCs, and the EU has argued that other countries should as well.

To address the issue, COP-8 invited the IPCC and the Montreal Protocol's Technology and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) to undertake a special report to develop balanced scientific, technical and policy-relevant information. The parties also decided to remove HFCs and PFCs as a separate issue on the SBSTA agenda. The outcome was acceptable to U.S. business interests, which argue that, with better information on the costs and benefits of different uses of HFCs and PFCs, countries will be less inclined to simply adopt a comprehensive phaseout.

Sinks in CDM

At COP-7, the parties decided that reforestation and afforestation projects would be eligible under the CDM, but not other land use activities such as avoided deforestation and forest management. The COP-7 decision also requested SBSTA to develop definitions and modalities for afforestation and reforestation projects, taking into account such issues as non-permanence, additionality and leakage.

At COP-8, SBSTA continued its consideration of this matter, focusing in particular on the issue of permanence. Two options were identified: insurance against the destruction or degradation of forest sinks; and creation of a different type of CER unit for sink projects that would be temporary in nature (so-called TCERs). Under the latter option, CERs generated by sink projects would expire at the end of each commitment period and would have to be made up by the country using them, either through substitute credits or reissued credits if the original project still exists.

SBSTA did not resolve the issues and adopted only procedural conclusions, calling for a workshop early next year and further consideration at its next session.

Non-Annex I Communications

The Framework Convention requires developing countries, with funding support from developed countries, to submit national communications detailing their emissions and steps they are taking to meet their Convention commitments. Many developing countries have yet to submit their initial reports.

Parties adopted stronger guidelines for second and subsequent national communications, including the methodologies to be used in developing emission inventories and the types of implementation and adaptation measures to be described. Although developed countries wanted the reports to include data showing emission trends over several years, the decision requires only single-year data, as favored by developing countries. The frequency of reporting is to be taken up at COP-9.

Clean Energy Exports

Following the U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has proposed that it be allowed emissions credit for selling natural gas and hydroelectricity to the United States, arguing that these clean energy exports reduce U.S. and global emissions. Canada's proposal has two dimensions: establishing the principle that Kyoto parties are entitled to credit for emission reductions resulting from their export of clean energy (defined as natural gas and hydroelectricity) to non-Kyoto parties; and granting Canada up to 70 million tons of credit a year in the first commitment period.

The latter proposal received little support, but the broader idea of credits for clean energy exports received support from a few countries, including New Zealand, Russia and Poland. The EU and, to the surprise of many delegates, the United States strongly opposed the proposal. As noted below, this issue became linked to the PAMs and adverse effects issues, and SBSTA simply decided to continue its consideration of the matter at its next session.

Brazilian proposal

During the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol, Brazil proposed a formula for establishing emission targets for developed countries based on their historical responsibility for climate change (as measured by their contribution to increased temperature). Since Kyoto, SBSTA's consideration of the issue has broadened to include: 1) all sources and sinks of all regions, not simply carbon emissions from industrialized countries; and 2) indicators of climate change other than increased temperature, such as radiative forcing and increased atmospheric concentrations. As a result of the broadening of the focus to all countries, some developing countries have become concerned about the possible implications for future developing country commitments.

An expert review of the issues coordinated by the Secretariat has concluded that the attribution of climate impacts to specific countries would require a more robust model, including better historical emissions data for each country. At COP-8, SBSTA agreed that work on the Brazilian proposal should continue in the scientific community. SBSTA encouraged research institutions that have been involved in the expert review to continue their work and report to SBSTA-20 (in summer 2004), and invited other research programs to join the effort.

Policies and measures (PAMs)

The Kyoto Protocol requires developed countries to pursue policies and measures (PAMs) to reduce greeenhouse gas emissions and enhance sinks, but allows each country flexibility to devise its own set of measures. Since Kyoto, the EU has pushed for development of methodologies to assess the effect of PAMs on greenhouse gas emissions and to elaborate "best practices."

At COP-8, the issue was derailed by Saudi Arabia's insistence that assessments of PAMs focus not only on their effectiveness in reducing emissions, but also their adverse economic effects on developing countries (and, in particular, oil-producing states). SBSTA was unable to adopt any substantive conclusions, and decided to continue its consideration of this topic at its next session.

Adverse effects of response measures

The Framework Convention requires parties to give "full consideration to what actions are necessary …. to meet the specific needs and concerns of developing country Parties arising from the … impact of the implementation of response measures." The Kyoto Protocol includes a similar provision.

Oil-producing states led by Saudi Arabia continued to press the issue of the adverse economic effects of mitigation measures, not only under the agenda items that explicitly address them, but also in the discussions of PAMs and the Canadian clean energy proposal. As a result, SBSTA and SBI were unable to reach substantive conclusions on any of these agenda items and instead decided to continue consideration of these issues at their next session.

IPCC Reports

Continuing a debate begun at SB-16 in June, the EU argued that the IPCC's Third Assessment Report (TAR) - reflecting a strong scientific consensus that human activity is a principal cause of climate change - provides the impetus for a new global process to decide on actions beyond 2012. Other countries strongly resisted, however, and SBSTA merely called for further consideration of the TAR at its next session.

The Secretariat and the IPCC organized a special event to discuss research needs in preparation for the Fourth Assessment Report to be completed in 2007. Parties agreed to increase collaboration with research programs independent of the Convention and IPCC processes to develop a better understanding of cross-cutting issues such as the relationship between climate change, sustainable development and equity; stabilization of atmospheric concentrations; and uncertainty.

Effective participation

At the insistence of the United States, the parties considered a new agenda item on effective participation in the Convention process. U.S. delegates - echoing complaints by some industry representatives that notification of and access to proceedings is often lacking - pushed for new procedures for participation in workshops and expert bodies, including notification of meetings on the UNFCCC web site and a default rule allowing participation by any NGO or party observer. The SBI called for notification on the web of workshops and meetings and requested the secretariat to tailor the number of observers to the nature of each workshop.

Arrangements for COP/MOP-1

The Kyoto Protocol provides that, following Kyoto's entry into force, the Conference of the Parties will serve also as the Meeting of the Parties to Kyoto. However, the Protocol does not say whether the meetings should be held sequentially or concurrently, or what the arrangements should be regarding agenda, officers and so forth.

With Kyoto's possible entry into force next year, SBI considered the arrangements for COP/MOP-1 and, in particular, its relationship to the COP. The Secretariat had proposed a concurrent meeting of the COP and the COP/MOP, but with separate agendas clearly identifying which items are COP items, which are COP/MOP items, and which are common issues to be considered in joint meetings of the COP and the COP/MOP. SBI had considerable discussion as to exactly how joint meetings would be organized and, in particular, how decisions would be adopted regarding issues of common concern to both the Convention and Protocol. The SBI considered a draft text but wanted more time to consider the mechanics and implications of joint meetings and referred the matter to its next session.

Venue for COP-9

Parties accepted an offer from Italy to host COP-9, set for early December 2003, with the location to be determined.