The Negotiation Process Leading to the Kyoto Protocol

Abstract In the Kyoto Protocol developed countries committed to emission reductions in return for considerable flexibility to achieve these, including carbon credit trading. Negotiations took place with several small steps, thereby allowing negotiation tactics to lead towards a final agreement. Important tactical aspects of the negotiations were: personalities of key negotiators, growing scientific knowledge of climate change impacts, handling the ‘Kyoto crisis’ after the US withdrawal, and linking Russia’s support to the Kyoto Protocol with its desire to become WTO member.


After the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or Convention) had entered into force in 1994, the first Conference of Parties to the Convention (COP-1) was held in Berlin, the new capital of Germany after the German unification.1 A key task of COP-1 was to review the adequacy of commitments for developed countries (Annex I Parties)[1] [2] as agreed in the Convention. An important instrument for this review was the obligation for countries to prepare national inventories (‘national communications’) of their greenhouse gas emissions, including climate policies and measures undertaken and their estimated effect on national emission levels (UNFCCC 1992, p. 15, Art. 12). One month before COP-1, at the eleventh session of INC in New York (February 1995) (INC 1995a), fifteen developed countries (together responsible for 41 % of global greenhouse gas emissions) had submitted their national communications. Based on these reports the INC had made a first assessment of how these countries had complied with the

UNFCCC objectives. This included an analysis of whether they were on a pathway to stabilise their greenhouse gas emissions by 2000 at the levels of 1990, as they had agreed when adopting the Convention in 1992 (see Chap. 3).

It was concluded that nine developed countries projected an increase in their CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2000. Six countries expected that their CO2 emissions would either stabilise or decrease by 2000 or 2005. Based on this assessment and in light of the new scientific insights on human influence on climate systems, which were soon to be published in the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (SAR) of 1995 (IPCC 1995), Parties agreed that the stabilisation targets for developed countries as agreed under the UNFCCC in May 1992 were inadequate for reaching the overall goal of the Convention, i.e. to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere at a “level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (UNFCCC 1992, p. 4, Art. 2).

Parties disagreed, however, on the next step to be taken by the COP (IISD 1995a). Several developed countries, particularly Germany and the USA, proposed that COP-1 would formulate new aims for a global climate policy for the period after 2000, for instance via a protocol or other legal instrument. Developing countries, however, said that negotiations on new aims and legal instruments for the post-2000 period should not lead to a diversion of attention away from developed countries’ promised stabilisation of emissions by 2000. Moreover, developing countries feared that a debate on new commitments could put pressure on them to also adopt national emission reduction or limitation commitments. This concern was particularly raised in reaction to the German ‘elements paper’, which was circulated at INC-11 and which suggested formulating differentiated commitments for some groups of developing countries.[3] Consequently, while agreeing on the inadequacy of commitments, developing countries stressed at INC-11 that post-2000 negotiations should not focus on commitments for them (IISD 1995a).

When countries met in Berlin a month later for COP-1 (March-April 1995) (Fig. 4.1), developing countries repeated these concerns. In the course of the two-week negotiations, countries slowly moved towards a compromise on a mandate to establish a protocol or other legal instrument for post-2000 commitments, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Several Parties tabled proposals for a protocol, which varied from proposing the ‘Toronto target’ (20 % greenhouse gas emission reduction below 1989 levels (Arts 1998, p. 103), derived from a climate meeting held in Toronto, Canada, in 1988, see Chap. 3) by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to New Zealand’s proposal that, next to industrialised countries, also developing countries with relatively high greenhouse gas emissions should adopt emission reduction targets in the near future. Eventually, a ‘Friends of the Chair’ group with representatives of 24

countries prepared the final text that was agreed upon by the COP as the Berlin Mandate (IISD 1995b).[4]

The Berlin Mandate aimed, for developed countries, “to elaborate on policies and measures, as well as to set quantified limitation and reduction objectives within specified time-frames, such as 2005, 2010 and 2020, for ... anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol” (UNFCCC 1995a, p. 5). As a result, the overall goal to be achieved by the package to be negotiated under the Berlin Mandate, became a negotiation topic itself (see discussion in Chap. 1 around Fig. 1.1).

Furthermore, the mandate recognised that developed countries differ in terms of economic structure and resource base, which would need to be reflected in the eventual negotiation outcome. It was specifically mentioned that no new commitments would be introduced for developing countries. Finally, the mandate called upon Parties to carry out the negotiation process “in the light of the best available scientific information and assessment on climate change and its impact.” The Berlin Mandate negotiations took place at sessions of the Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (AGBM) during 1995-1997.

A breakthrough at COP-1 on the Berlin Mandate was achieved in a number of ways (IISD 1995b). First, developed countries agreed with a similar interpretation of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities as in 1992 under the UNFCCC, i.e. negotiations on a post-2000 climate protocol should only focus on new commitments for developed countries, not for developing countries. Second, developed countries made clear that negotiations on post-2000 commitments would not come in the place of, or delay, their promise in the UNFCCC to stabilise national greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000. Third, the G-77&China temporarily ‘broke’ with the OPEC countries in the group because the latter were of the opinion that it was premature to draft a protocol at all. In the corridors, it was said that OPEC countries were against attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as this might reduce global demand for fossil fuels, including oil. The G-77&China, inspired by India’s input, continued negotiations as the so-called Green Group, which was in favour of a post-2000 climate protocol with common but differentiated responsibilities.

  • [1] COP-1 was held one year after the entry-into-force of the UNFCCC, which took place in March1994; between UNCED (1992) and COP-1 (1995) Parties continued negotiations in the context ofthe INC (see also Chap. 3, in which the first five sessions of INC are discussed; after UNCED, INCsessions continued until COP-1). The COP itself was established under the UNFCCC in Article 7as the supreme body of the Convention with, among other tasks, the task to periodically examinethe obligations of the Parties (UNFCCC 1992, p. 17, Art. 7).
  • [2] In accordance with Article 4.2(d) of UNFCCC (1992). © Springer International Publishing AG 2017 57 W. van der Gaast, International Climate Negotiation Factors, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-46798-6_4
  • [3] The German delegation circulated the paper in preparation for its role as Chair of COP-1 (IISD1995a).
  • [4] Decision 1/CP.1 (UNFCCC 1995a). The name ‘Berlin Mandate’ was suggested by the USdelegation.
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