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  December 1998    

UNU advises leaders at climate change summit
The Fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (commonly referred to as "COP4") took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 2-13 November.

As an observer organization, the United Nations University actively participated in COP4 through a number of events and raised issues related to conflicts between international trade regimes and the Kyoto Protocol. That document resulted from an earlier meeting in Japan (COP3).

The first special COP4 event organized by the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS) and the Global Environment Information Center (GEIC) brought together on 7 November three experts on trade and environmental issues, and was jointly chaired by Bradnee W. Chambers of UNU/IAS and Jerry Velasquez of GEIC.

Laura Campbell, a Fulbright Fellow in the Law Faculty at Tokyo's Sophia University, identified areas of potential conflict between the climate regime and the World Trade Organization. She called for more careful consideration of these conflicts by governments engaged in climate change negotiations.

Daniel C. Esty, Director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, addressed the far-reaching consequences of the climate change regime for product price structure and the importance of addressing "competitiveness stress" in designing the mechanisms for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. He advocated the use of trade as an enforcement tool, and called for a tiered system of obligations involving all the Parties to the agreement.

Jacob Werksman, Managing Director and Senior Lawyer at FIELD, UK, provided an update on the negotiations of a Multilateral Agreement on Investment and outlined possible tensions arising from implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

On 11 November, a follow-up event focused on the United Nations University report on the linkages between the Kyoto Protocol and other multilateral Agreements. Drs. Chambers and Campbell discussed the Kyoto Protocol in the context of international law and policy.

In addition, COP4 delegates received 1,500 copies of a UNU report, Global Climate Governance: A Report on the Inter-linkages between the Kyoto Protocol and other Multilateral Regimes. The report is available at the GEIC web site: The UNU also set up a booth in the exhibition hall displaying relevant publications and research papers.

Finally, researchers from UNU/IAS undertook a questionnaire survey of delegates at COP4. A small sample of delegates were asked their views on issues including their preparations for COP4, their perceptions of the negotiation process, and their delegations' size and capabilities. Over 60 delegates responded, and the survey results will be used in the development of training materials for the UNU/IAS workshop series under the Environment and Multilateral Diplomacy project.

The conference concluded in the early hours of Saturday morning with the adoption a "Buenos Aires Action Plan" establishing deadlines for finalizing work on key mechanisms contained in the Kyoto Protocol (Joint Implementation, Emissions Trading and the Clean Development Mechanism). The next major meeting of the parties to the climate change accord will be COP5 in 1999.
Workshop mulls global climate governance

On 17 and 18 September, the UNU and its Institute of Advanced studies joined the Global Environment Information Centre (GEIC) in hosting a workshop, "Future Scenarios for Global Climate Governance," focusing on the legal, economic, and social implications of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.

The purpose of the meeting was to develop policy recommendations to present to governments prior to the Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP4) held in Buenos Aires in November 1998. A UNU delegation attended that meeting to further educate policy makers as they discussed the progress made in implementing the Kyoto Protocol since its adoption in December 1997 and further action needed to ensure that its goals are met.

The Kyoto Protocol, concluded on 11 December 1997, contains a number of market-based instruments referred to as "flexibility mechanisms," which are aimed at achieving the environmental goal of the treaty to prevent climate change through the use of economic forces.

Key among these flexibility mechanisms contained in the Protocol are the provisions related to: 1) greenhouse gas emissions "trading," 2) joint implementation of emissions reductions among countries, and, 3) the Clean Development Mechanism, a scheme for assisting developing countries in taking action to prevent climate change.

In the case of each of these flexibility mechanisms, the principles, rules, and guidelines for their operation are yet to be elaborated, and governments have continued to negotiate on the specifics of implementation. This also was a major focus of COP4.

One of the key purposes of this UNU/GEIC project is to develop innovative policy options for the implementation of these flexibility mechanisms. Thus the September meeting explored the potential roles to be played by the private sector in effective implementation of the flexibility mechanisms; the need for strong compliance and enforcement mechanisms; the linkages between international trade, investment and the Kyoto Protocol; the relationships between the climate change protocol and other environmental treaties; and the development of model contracts for carrying out climate change activities under the joint implementation scheme and the Clean Development Mechanism.

In developing future scenarios for global climate governance, the experts looked at potential conflicts between the climate change treaty and international trade, particularly in light of the treaty's emphasis on trading greenhouse gas emissions as a means of implementation. The meeting also focused on the relationship between international investment regimes and the Kyoto Protocol's provisions encouraging industrialized countries to carry out energy-efficient projects in developing. The critical importance of the private sector in effective implementation of the Protocol and the need for consistent rules to govern economic transactions related to climate change were also noted.

The experts at the meeting concluded that the United Nations University, through GEIC and UNU/IAS, has a critical role to play in the development of effective mechanisms for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, particularly by carrying out research in strategic areas such as the role of the private sector in preventing climate change; the linkages between trade, investment, and climate change; compliance and enforcement; and developing innovative policy scenarios and solutions for consideration by policy makers, governments, and other UN constituents.

Keeping the heat down in Kyoto Contents Towards a greener UN in the 21st Century