An Assessment of Montreal COP/MOP 1

Implications for the Kyoto Protocol Post-2012

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The December 2005 Montreal “COP-MOP” Kyoto Protocol negotiation was widely hailed for producing an “historic climate agreement”. Such trumpeting was fairly ritualistic from Kyoto’s 1997 inception through the “emergency” meeting in Bonn, July 2001, the sole exception to this run being a failed COP-6 which necessitated the Bonn COP-6 bis.5 Reality has subdued reaction to more recent sessions.

Montreal being the first “Meeting of the Parties” since Kyoto attained sufficient ratifications to bring it into future effect, the treaty prescribed that certain actions must be taken there, and the soaring rhetoric resumed. This gathering also served as the “11th Conference of the Parties to the “voluntary” 1992 UNFCCC7 that spawned Kyoto, and was thus styled a “COP-MOP”. The COP-MOP touted two achievements that were, in fact, nothing more than already-agreed promises to meet again later to discuss continued voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts for the majority of the world that rejects Kyoto’s mandatory promises, and a Kyoto second round for those already-bound countries, as previously stipulated in Kyoto.

As these descriptions imply and due to other developments passing without press release or fanfare, both of the agreements and their purported import (a breakthrough advance, and humiliating the US into rethinking Kyoto) struggle to match the heraldic claims. One substantively important development in Montreal was adoption of the 2001 “Marrakech Accord” penalties. As drafted these sanctions, inter alia, disqualify Kyoto Parties that violate their “first round” (2008-2012) quota from employing the mechanisms of “joint implementation” (JI) and emission-trading in any subsequent round of cuts.

While actually constituting Kyoto’s long-missing element—something resembling an enforcement mechanism and “teeth”—this Decision “Procedures and mechanisms relating to compliance under the Kyoto Protocol”12 purporting to adopt Marrakech received little fanfare as compared to the muchtouted agreements to merely talk later.

Upon further inspection this relative lack of celebration is understandable and warranted because the Decision is inherently non-binding. Along with one other item, Kyoto’s “Procedures and mechanisms” simultaneously and quietly weakened Kyoto’s emission reduction promises and eviscerated Marrakech’s mandatory and costly enforcement provisions into at best mere discretionary incentives.

As such, MOP-1 affirmed and ensured Kyoto will remain no more binding du jure or inpractice than its UNFCCC predecessor.

After eight years and nine negotiations, over 150 states still reject Kyoto’s rationing. In order to rescue some perpetuation after its scheduled expiration in 2012, creative mechanisms appear likely to emerge under which the exempt majority receive additional wealth transfers. The most likely would further recast Kyoto as little more than a foreign aid scheme under which cleaner rich countries pay dirtier, fast-growing countries for the right of future economic growth. This scenario portends a split between and among rent-seeking corporations, erstwhile Kyoto-supporting politicians, and their pressure group allies. Signs of this split have already emerged, inviting a workable “Plan B”.