Melinda L. Kimble, Acting Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Intervention by the United States of America - Support for Item Six on the COP-4 Agenda, Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 2, 1998


"Support for Item Six on the COP-4 Agenda"

Thank you, Madame President:

Please permit me to begin by joining other colleagues in offering
to you our warmest congratulations on your election as President
of the Fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change.  You can be assured, Mme.
President, that my delegation will work with a cooperative and
earnest spirit to ensure that our work proceeds in a way that is
supportive of the overall objectives of the Convention and of the
Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted last December in Japan.

In this regard, we regret that divisions among the various
Parties represented in this chamber may prevent us from
elaborating the issues related to Agenda Item Six of the agenda
which was transparently entitled "voluntary commitments by non-
Annex I Parties."  We support inclusion of this item, although we
recognize that no quick decision on this issue is likely.  While
we fully recognize that this issue is controversial, we believe
it is important to discuss all issues of relevance even when they
are controversial.  Locking doors to discussion cannot build
consensus or advance our efforts.  Rather, any meeting of the COP
should open doors.   Such closure threatens our joint ability to
further the implementation of the Convention and build on the
progress that we achieved at Kyoto.

Mme. President, in our effort to cooperate with other Parties, we
do not wish to prolong debate on this topic, despite its
relevance.  We welcome the leadership of the Government of
Argentina in highlighting the significance of this issue.  We
believe that ultimately all Parties must explore and develop more
consensus on how to secure global action on this problem of
climate change.  To pursue effectively the overall objectives of
the Convention, we will need, over time, to strengthen
progressively all commitments by all Parties to the Convention.

To say the least, we are disappointed that it appears that
countries will not have an opportunity to explore this matter in
any detail.  We had hoped that, together, we could have worked to
address many legitimate questions on what is meant by the words
"voluntary commitments."

Making progress on implementation of the Convention and
completing the "unfinished" business of the Kyoto Protocol
requires much discussion -- technical and political -- of all
issues, including controversial ones.   Making progress requires
not only an understanding of the problems but also awareness of
the options that are available for solving them.  Kyoto
potentially created new options for all Parties and we believe
they need to be discussed and understood.  Among the questions
that need to be considered include:

-- How do we provide for a dynamic process?  What provisions can
be made to allow those countries that wish to do so to join the
Protocol as Annex B Parties?  And, on what basis can Parties -
either singly or collectively - reject the stated desire of any
individual sovereign country to join Annex B?

-- Must any Party interested in taking on a quantitative
commitment to abate the increase in its greenhouse gas emissions
use 1990 as its base year, as would seem to be required under
Article 3 of the Protocol?
     -- If so, this would constitute a stricter requirement than
that now faced by some Annex I Parties which are given a "certain
degree of flexibility" in choosing different base years.
     -- If so, this would also seem to run counter to the
guidelines for Initial Communications of Parties not included in
Annex I, which the COP adopted two years ago in its decision
10/CP.2 and which allows these Parties to use 1994 as their base
year.

-- In addition, must any Party interested in taking on a
quantitative commitment to abate the increase in its greenhouse
gas emissions assume the commitments in Article 4.2(a) and (b) of
the Convention as a pre-condition to taking on a target?
     -- This would ensure that sufficient information would be
provided to review and verify national programs, but there may be
other ways to achieve this result.

-- If a Party were to take on the commitments in Article 4.2(a)
and (b) of the Convention in order to qualify as an Annex I Party
under the Protocol's definition, so that it could engage in
emissions trading under Article 17, would that Party have any
obligations after the end of the present decade with respect to
the "aim" in Article 4.2(a) and (b)?

-- How would a Party interested in taking on a quantitative
commitment to abate the increase in its greenhouse gas emissions
develop a target that would achieve the full range of its
environmental and economic goals in support of sustainable
development?

-- How would such a Party continue to be eligible to host
projects under the Clean Development Mechanism until the
beginning of the first commitment period?

These are only a few of the many questions that we believe could
-- and should -- be usefully explored by the Conference of the
Parties.  Answers to them would be helpful to any country --
including a country that decides that its circumstances are
consistent with, and its interests are served by, seeking a way
to establish a formal quantitative commitment.   It will be
difficult to make progress on the broader aims of the Convention
if we do not soon begin to address these questions.

Mme. President, my delegation is fully prepared to engage on all
the issues facing this Conference of the Parties and is ready to
proceed in a positive and forthright manner.  We look forward to
advancing implementation of the Climate Convention by all Parties
and to elaborating, as appropriate, elements of the Kyoto
Protocol.

Thank you, Mme. President.


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