Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions


  1.  This memorandum sets out the Government's strategy for the climate change negotiations in the light of the US Administration's position on the Kyoto Protocol.

US position

  2.  President Bush has said that he opposes the Kyoto Protocol, on the grounds that it would harm the US economy and requires insufficient action by developing countries. The United States has ratified the UN FCCC and signed the Kyoto Protocol but has not ratified Kyoto. President Bush has ordered a review of US policy with the aim of developing alternative proposals for addressing climate change. We understand that the Administration hopes to complete this review before the resumed Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the UN FCCC in Bonn in July, though they have given no firm undertakings in this regard.

UK position

  3.  The Government has made it clear that, notwithstanding the US position, we continue to believe that the Kyoto Protocol provides the best framework for dealing with climate change. This is a global problem which requires a global agreement. Kyoto was the result of years of multilateral negotiations, and it could take years to negotiate an alternative. Any agreement would require caps on emissions and, to be negotiable, that developed countries act first. Concerns about costs can be addressed through the Kyoto framework, which offers a number of flexibilities, including the Kyoto mechanisms, sinks and the six-gas basket.

Position of other countries

  4.  I have recently returned from New York, where I had four days of intensive bilateral contacts on climate change, including meetings with the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, Russia, Iran, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, plus discussions with EU colleagues. I also attended high-level consultations chaired by Jan Pronk, the Dutch Chairman of COP6, in which Ministers from about 35 key countries participated. There was universal regret at the US position on Kyoto. Everyone with the exception of the US supported the Kyoto Protocol as the way forward and wanted to continue working for an agreement within the Kyoto framework. I hope that other Umbrella Group countries in particular will also use their influence to encourage the US to re-engage.

  5.  Those discussions in New York served to reinforce my view that we should continue to work for a successful outcome at the resumed COP6 in July which will enable the UK and other countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, with a view to securing its entry into force by 2002.

Influencing the US

  6.  We are, of course, keen to maintain a constructive dialogue with the US since it is important that they remain engaged in global efforts to tackle climate change. We are making full use of all existing bilateral channels to influence the US policy review. We want to hear the views and ideas of the US Administration as to how emission reductions might be achieved, but that does not alter our view that the Kyoto Protocol is the right way forward. We obviously cannot predict what proposals the US may put on the table, but we continue to believe that any suggestion that developing countries should take on targets in the short term would be unnegotiable. We also note that developing countries are taking significant action to limit the growth in their emissions without formal targets.

Jan Pronk's revised proposals

  7.  Jan Pronk has made it clear that he intends to continue to seek agreement on the detailed rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol at the resumed COP6 in July. To that end he has recently published revised compromise proposals, based on the package which he proposed in The Hague. The revised proposals include the following key changes:

    Sinks: New rules on Article 3.4 sinks. All sinks credits would be subject to an overall cap, with the size of the cap varying according to whether the Party has an emissions limitation or reduction target.

    Sinks in the CDM: Certain sinks projects would be eligible for the Clean Development Mechanism, but credits would be subject to the overall cap mentioned above.

    Supplementarity: developed countries would be required to meet their commitments "chiefly" through domestic action.

    Developing country funding: Clarification that $1 billion a year target for climate change funding for developing countries would be additional to existing bilateral and multilateral funding.

  8.  It is not possible for me to comment in detail on Mr Pronk's new proposals without undermining the Government's negotiating position. However, I believe that the revised proposals represent a good basis for negotiation. We will be consulting closely with other Parties in the run up to COP6 bis with a view to promoting a successful outcome. Mr Pronk has also announced his intention to hold further high-level consultations with key Parties prior to COP6 bis, and is currently exploring the possibility of convening a meeting in Stockholm on 21 May.

Forthcoming meetings

  9.  The timetable for forthcoming international meetings is now as follows:

16-17 MayOECD Environment Ministers (Paris)
21 May?High-level consultations (Stockholm?)
7-8 JuneEU Environment Council (Luxembourg)
14 JuneEU-US summit (Gothenburg)
15-16 JuneEuropean Council (Gothenburg)
16-27 JulyResumed COP6 (Bonn)
20-22 JulyG8 Summit (Genoa)
9 OctoberEU Environment Council (Brussels)
29 Oct-9 NovCOP7 (Marrakech)

  10.  The Government will seek to take advantage of all appropriate opportunities over the coming months to engage with the US and other Parties with a view to finding a way forward. We are keen to make use of the EU-US Summit to explore areas of common ground between the EU and US, and to consider how best to handle COP6 bis. Similarly, Heads of Government may have a role to play at the G8 Summit, which falls during the resumed COP6.

John Prescott
3 May 2001

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 10 May 2001