Dubious deal

  • 14/08/1998

Dubious deal
THE Kyoto Protocol is only a first step - that too a timid one - to stabilise the atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a non-dangerous level. The protocol stipulates GHG reduction of 5.2 per cent in the industrialised world. As relevant reductions have already been achieved through the economic breakdown of the eastern European economies, real reductions will have to be even below this level. As most scientists or associations, including the Climate Enquete Commission of the German Parliament (Bundestag), recommend that GHG emissions should be reduced by 50 per cent worldwide and by 80 to 90 per cent in the industrialised world until 2100, the Kyoto agreement is considered to be an inappropriate step.

Industrialised countries, which are mainly responsible for GHG emissions, should take the first step in reducing these. The protocol is inadequate in this respect. The developing world also has to change its development plans for the achievement of the overall objective of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. This means that in second or third generation protocols, quantitative limits for the increase of GHG emissions in the developing countries should be agreed upon. A per capita approach should be one of the basic parameters of such a calculation.

The US government's demand for "meaningful participation" from developing countries in the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol should not mean that developing countries take quantitative obligations at this stage. Nevertheless, all parties to the convention should take their obligations to improve energy efficiency and to increase the share of renewable energy more seriously. A lot of things could be done in this respect to improve legal efficiency standards, investment practices and existing financial instruments at the national and multilateral level. Meaningful participation of developing countries should also mean that framework conditions at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and at the level of international financial institutions' level are changed accordingly.

Moreover, emissions trading mechanism, which was introduced in the protocol, needs further elaboration before the real trade can take place. Emissions trading was meant to make reduction commitments more flexible. If reduction commitments stayas weak as they are now, why is there a need for more flexibility at all?

Any emissions trading scheme must guarantee that traded emissions rights are based on reductions for climate protection measures. Hot air reductions from the economic breakdown of eastern Europe and Russia should definitely be excluded from any emission rights deal. Emission trading also needs strict and clear verification and monitoring rules.

A sanction must be imposed on parties that do not comply with the rules. The sanction mechanism of the WTO could be taken as a role model for climate convention.

Emission trading as it is foreseen in the Kyoto Protocol does not deal with the property rights of each individual citizen of the world properly. If Annex I countries expect to trade with developing countries, inter alia through the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, then an approach based on per capital entitlements should be one of the basic parameters for the calculation of emission rights.

Sascha Muller-Kraenner is former director, international affairs, Deutsher Naturschutzring. He is now with the Heinrich Boll Foundation

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