Statement: COP6: A Realistic Definition of "Success"

For Immediate Release:
November 24, 2000

Contact: Katie Mandes (+44-77-300-52194)
Dale Curtis (+44-77-300-52206)
Juan Cortinas (+1-703-587-5909)

A Realistic Definition of "Success"

Statement by Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Netherlands Conference Center, The Hague

As the "COP6" global climate change negotiations entered the critical final hours last night, Chairman Pronk offered a text designed to spur governments toward a successful compromise. As everyone looks to the conference's end tomorrow, we should take a realistic view of what can be accomplished and what would constitute "success."

There is a perception among many observers that COP6 was supposed to resolve all of the outstanding political and technical issues stemming from the Kyoto Protocol and pave the way to its ratification. But this has never been a realistic expectation, particularly with respect to the United States.

The political and technical issues under discussion at COP6 are extremely complex. In fact, it is fair to say that these negotiations are more complex than those that spawned today's international trade rules, and that process took more than 10 years. The congressional deliberations that produced the US Clean Air Act took nearly a decade.

So it should come as no surprise if the approximately 180 governments attending COP6 do not agree on every issue in this round. A more realistic definition of success would envision:

  • Resolving some of the political questions surrounding the Kyoto Mechanisms (e.g. supplementarity, fungibility, whether to extend the levy on the CDM to the other mechanisms, etc.);
  • Creating a process for resolving some of the technical issues (e.g. what rules will be used for approving projects under the Clean Development Mechanism);
  • Defining a specific mandate for the next round of negotiations, carrying the process forward on the issues that are too contentious to be resolved at this meeting (e.g. what system should be agreed for sinks under Article 3.4).

In light of the scale and complexity of these issues, even small decisions here represent important progress. The text proposed last night by Conference President Jan Pronk, while imperfect, is a necessary element of the negotiating process and is an encouraging sign that real progress can be achieved here.

Our top priority must remain resolving the political and technical issues in ways that work in the long run, because ultimately this treaty must stand the test of time.

About the Pew Center: The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is a nonprofit, non-partisan and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, leads the Pew Center.

The Pew Center includes the Business Environmental Leadership Council, a group of large, mostly Fortune 500 corporations all working with the Pew Center to address issues related to climate change. The companies do not contribute financially to the Pew Center; it is solely supported by contributions from charitable foundations.

An important area of the Pew Center's work is to commission studies on the scientific, economic and policy issues surrounding climate change. Some of those recent studies have explored such issues as the Kyoto Mechanisms, compliance, carbon sequestration, environmental impacts of climate change, and ways to improve the economic analysis of climate policies. A complete list of these reports and downloadable copies of them can be found at