December 12, 2005

Decisions made at Montreal 2005 give substance, direction to climate change convention, Kyoto Protocol

Intense negotiations, often into the early morning hours during the second week of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, yielded more than 40 important decisions which will strengthen global efforts to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and deal with the impacts of climate change.

Richard Kinley, acting head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, called Montreal 2005 "one of the most productive UN Climate Change Conferences ever," while federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion, the conference president, stated that "the Kyoto Protocol has been switched on, a dialogue about the future action has begun, parties have moved forward work on adaptation and advanced the implementation of the regular work program of the Convention and of the Protocol."

Key decisions made will clear the path to future international action on climate change. Along with adoption of the Marrakesh accords during the first week of the conference (ELW December 5), one of the main successes was the strengthening of the clean development mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol. This will enable developed countries to invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries, helping them improve their standard of living while also allowing developed nations to earn emission allowances.

In Montreal, developed countries committed a total of more than $13 million (U.S.) to fund the operation of the CDM during 2006-2007. The process for methodologies under the clean development mechanism (CDM) was simplified and its governing body strengthened.

Another outcome of the conference was the launch of the second Kyoto mechanism, Joint Implementation (JI). A governing body was established for this mechanism, under which developed countries can invest in other developed countries, in particular central and eastern European economies in transition, and thereby earn carbon allowances that they can use to meet their emission reduction commitments.

Initiated as well was the process for future commitments under the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, in fulfillment of Article 3.9 of the Protocol. A new working group was established to discuss future commitments for developed countries for the period after 2012. It will start work in May 2006.

A major breakthrough was the agreement on the compliance regime for the Kyoto Protocol. The compliance committee with its enforcement and facilitative branches was elected. This decision is key to ensure that the Parties to the Protocol have a clear accountability regime in meeting their emission reductions targets.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a dialogue was initiated on strategic approaches for long-term global co-operative action to address climate change. A series of workshops is planned to develop the broad range of actions needed to respond to the climate change challenge.

Adaptation to the impacts of climate change was an important focus of the conference. Delegates endorsed a five-year work program on adaptation to climate change impacts. This work is expected to yield practical steps to determine impacts and develop measures to adapt to climate change. To this end, the conference also agreed on a one-year process to define how the Adaptation Fund will be managed and operated. This unique fund will draw on proceeds generated by the CDM and will support concrete adaptation activities in developing countries.

Technology was at the centre of discussion on efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts. Countries agreed on further steps on promoting the development and transfer of technologies. One technology that raised particular interest was carbon capture and storage - a technology that involves storing carbon underground. It is estimated to have the potential of reducing the costs of mitigation by up to 30%. The discussion was based on a special report recently published by the IPCC (ELW October 3, 2005). Parties agreed to move forward with deeper analysis of this technology.

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