EU and Japan Resist US Unilateralism in COP 8
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
The 8th Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention (COP 8) concluded on 3 November with the adoption of a Ministerial "Delhi Declaration". The declaration represented the outcome of a concerted effort, primarily by the EU backed by countries such as Japan and Canada, to counter the US design to "sabotage" the proceedings by exploiting deep divisions that exist between developing and developed countries over their respective roles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to Thomas Becker, deputy head of the EU delegation, a failure to agree on a declaration would have been "disastrous" (Reuters, 2 November). Representing the last major climate meeting before the 1997 Kyoto pact is expected to take effect (March 2003), arriving at a consensus was considered fundamental for the protocol's implementation.
Ministers and delegates from 185 countries ultimately issued a declaration that called for all countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. They agreed to move forward on curbing the emission of refrigerants that are responsible for climate change as well as ozone depletion and recognized that developing countries need aid to help them adapt to climate change and work towards Kyoto pact targets. To that end, the EU confirmed its commitment to provide its share of the $410 million of funding per year from 2005 to support action in developing countries as promised along with Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland at the Bonn conference in July 2001.
According to EU and NGO representatives, the US attempted to "hijack" the proceedings with the objective of "watering down the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol" (Associated Press, 29 October). Initially US led efforts seemed to be succeeding with the draft declaration issued on 29 October not even mentioning the Kyoto Protocol. Despite being responsible for 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the Bush administration has made it no secret that it wants to bury the protocol. Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wild Life Federation's climate change program indicated that US delegates at the conference "worked on a number of fronts to unnecessarily exacerbate tensions between developed and developing countries, sidetrack the science and keep countries from moving ahead" (OneWorld.net, 3 November). The argument put forward by the US was that, "the Kyoto Protocol is costly, ineffective and unfair. It is also impractical and unrealistic. Climate change is a global phenomenon but the developing countries are not participating" (statement by US Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, OneWorld.net, 3 November).
These audacious comments sparked the ire of many pro-Kyoto delegations (EU, Japan and Canada) as well as NGO's who decided on action to assist developing countries to be able to make commitments as well. In response to the US stance, Greenpeace's climate policy director, Steve Sawyer, commented that, "as rising seas, increased droughts, floods and diseases like malaria keep costing millions of dollars and lives, people around the world will not forget that the USA has continuously obstructed international efforts to prevent dangerous climate change" (Associated Press, 1 November).
UN data indicates that losses owing to natural disasters linked to climate change have reached one trillion dollars over the past 15 years and annual losses in the next ten years could reach 150 billion US dollars (OneWorld.net, 29 October). Late rains in India led to a 38 percent drop in crop production compared with previous years pushing more farmers into poverty. The cost of failing to tackle climate change in a serious manner today will be devastating for our immediate and long-term future. As Andrew Dlugolecki, a member of the United Nations Environmental Programme, stated, "the increasing frequency of severe climatic events, threatening social stability, has the potential to stress insurers, reinsurers and banks to the point of impaired viability or even insolvency". Over the past year alone we have witnessed Monsoon failures in Asia, forest fires in the US, unprecedented droughts and floods in Europe and Asia. The imperative to act now is an obvious must. Nevertheless, the US continues sabotage all steps in the right direction.
One positive outcome of the COP 8 conference, however, was the fact that the European Union, Japan along with other developed and developing countries refused to back down to US threats and pushed through with their vision for the future. While the true test will come when the Kyoto Protocol comes into effect, the EU, Japan and others have done well to resist US unilateralism. There are some things which we cannot afford to compromise on and the Kyoto Protocol is clearly one of them.
- EU News 22/2002, "Commissioner Wallstrom welcomes outcome of climate change conference", European Commission, 5 November 2002.
- ENS Correspondents, "Dissent Clouds Delhi Climate Declaration", OneWorld.net, 3 November 2002
- Y. P. Rajesh, "Rich Gave in at Climate Talks to Protect Kyoto Pact", Reuters, 2 November 2002
- Neelish Misra, "Nations Approve Climate Change Draft", The Associated Press, 1 November 2002
- Nirmala George, "Delegates divided over draft declaration at global climate change conference", The Associated Press, 29 October 2002
- Ranjit Devraj, "U.N. Climate Negotiations Back on Track", Inter Press Service and OneWorld.net, 29 October 2002
- Kalyani, "Greens Protest Stance at UN Climate Talks", OneWorld.net, 29 October 2002