Global Environment

The Fourth Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change - Section 2

2. RECENT INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS TO COPE WITH GLOBAL WARMING

(Item 4 of Agenda)

A. Status of implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

15. Mr. Jacob Swager, Principal Officer (Commitments), UNFCCC Interim Secretariat presented a status report on the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 122 countries had ratified the Convention, including a large number of Asian and Pacific countries. The early implementation of the Convention was prepared by the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee for the FCCC, which completed its work in February of 1995 at its eleventh Session. The Conference of the Parties (COP) was due to assume responsibility at its first session, between March 28th and April 7th, 1995 in Berlin. Two main issues on its agenda were the possible mandate for a process leading to a protocol containing new commitments for developed countries, and the modalities for 'joint implementation' of activities. Other issues included decisions on the rules of procedure, the budget and the secretariat.

16. Mr. Swager further mentioned that the Parties from developed countries had to submit their first national communications by September 21, 1994. 15 national communications had been reviewed and were to be submitted to in-depth reviews over the next half year. Experts nominated by their governments are undertaking the technical review, assisted by international organizations, and co-ordinated by the interim secretariat, and were to submit their findings to the COP4. The compilation and synthesis that has been prepared on these 15 communications (representing 41% of global CO2 emissions) show that the majority of these countries will need to introduce additional policies and measures in order to achieve 1990 levels of CO2, or of greenhouse gas emissions in general, by the year 2000.

17. Other communications from developed countries are being submitted and will likewise be reviewed. First communications from developing countries were due by March 21, 1997, and at its second session in mid-1996, the COP was to set guidelines for these communications, and for their subsequent consideration.

Summary of Discussions

18. Concerning a remark on the difference in quantities of greenhouse gas emitted by developed and developing countries, and how responses differed between the two types of countries, the Seminar noted that country studies have not yet been received from the developing countries, as their communications were required by the FCCC after a period of three years rather than the one year allowed to the Annex I countries. Consequently, it is not yet possible to say exactly how the response strategies will differ, although as their commitments differ under the FCCC and the nature of their sources and sinks is different from the Annex I countries, their response strategies will undoubtedly also be different.

B. Progress of activities of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

19. Dr. Shuzo Nishioka, Director, Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Environmental Agency of Japan, reported the recent progress of IPCC activities. He noted the importance of the series of Seminars in disseminating information on IPCC reports and methodologies. The IPCC was preparing its Second Assessment Report (SAR) to be published at the end of 1995. This report, which will update the 1990 Report, will synthesize the findings of each of the IPCC workgroups: WGI (Scientific Assessment). WGII (assessment of impacts and response strategies), and WGIII (cross-cutting socio-economic issues). Some of these reports are now at the government review stage. After the adoption of the individual reports at each working group plenary during that summer and autumn, the SAR was to he approved in the IPCC plenary session in December 1995.

20. Prior to the work on the SAR, the IPCC adopted its special 1994 report at the plenary session of November 1994. This report consisting of four parts was the response to an urgent request from the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to be submitted in March 1995 to the First Conference of Parties (COP) in Berlin. The four parts of the report are as follows:

  • a) IPCC/OECD Methodology for GHG Inventory compiled by WGI.
  • b) IPCC Technical Guidelines for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations.
  • c) An Evaluation of the IPCC IS92 Emission Scenarios.
  • d) Radiative Forcing of Climate Change.

21. The major new results recorded since the IPCC 1992 Report are, in summary: revised values for Global Warming Potentials (GWPs); revised methane GWP; revised levels at which stabilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations could be attained; improved estimation of forcing by aerosols; a finding that the recent low growth rate of carbon dioxide concentrations is not unusual; a finding that there has been a sharp reduction in the methane growth rate; findings concerning the impacts of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption on climate; a more accurate estimate of the global carbon budget.

22. In October 1994, the IPCC held a trans-working group Workshop on Article 2 at Fortaleza, Brazil, These discussions and their outcome are presented in the IPCC 1995 Report. Dr. Nishioka identified some of the critical issues to be discussed in the second assessment reports. For example, WGIII discusses the issue of equity and the question of whether we should prefer adaptation to mitigation when there are the broad scientific uncertainties associated with climate change research. According to available data, it is developing countries that suffer more severe adverse impacts than the developed countries. The position of developing countries is further complicated by the weakness of their capacity to adapt, especially when expensive technological options are required. Consequently, preference should be given to mitigation options rather than to adaptation.

23. The report will suggest, inter alia that:

  • a) An extensive array of technologies and policy measures capable of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions is available. However, social, institutional, financial, market and legislative barriers to their application and implementation limit their actual contribution to mitigation, i.e. realized potential is often significantly less than technical potential;
  • b) Actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be easier to implement if they are designed to simultaneously address other concerns that impede sustainable development. They will be more effective if they use well-integrated mixes of policies, tailored for local situations and developed through consultation with stakeholders; and
  • c) Continued commitment to research is essential if technologies are to be developed that will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

24. In conclusion, Mr. Nishioka remarked that given the key role which scientific findings play in analyzing phenomena and assisting in suggesting possible response options, the IPCC is likely to become all the more important at the time when practical implementation is required under the FCCC. He further stressed the critical role of collaboration among countries and international organizations in the region in order to respond to the challenges of the effects of climate change.

C. AOSIS Protocol

25. The delegate from Fiji called the attention of the Seminar to the fact that the Alliance of Small Island States submitted a draft Protocol to the United Nations FCCC on Greenhouse Emission Reduction to the eleventh session of INC. The draft Protocol aims to strengthen the commitments of developed country parties under FCCC with respect to commitments already included in the Convention. The protocol addressed items of vital importance to the Small Island States and reflected their urgent desire for the adoption of strengthened mitigation measures. The delegate called attention to the urgent need for Asian and Pacific countries to support initiatives to quickly negotiate and adopt a Protocol to the UNFCCC.

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