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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Tuesday 9th December 2003

Two steps forward, one step back: Kyoto Mechanisms finalised

Milan: The Climate Action Network (CAN) welcomed the conclusion of an agreement on one of the last outstanding issues of the Kyoto Protocol, over the use of carbon sinks within the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), with some reservations on the content. The sucessful conclusion of these negotiations, which are complex in nature with many divergent views, shows that multi-lateral negotiations can work.

CAN continues to have strong reservations about the use of forestry sinks to meet Kyoto targets - sinks offer no long-term benefits for the climate. However, since it was decided that sinks would be used, CAN has worked hard in pursuit of a set of rules that minimise the risk to the climate and promote the maximum benefits for sustainable development and biodiversity.

Allowing sinks in the CDM was agreed at COP7 in Marrakech. At that time, many Parties argued strongly that the rules covering land use change and forestry should be the same as the rules covering energy projects, and so the two should be treated the same way. Today's agreement makes clear that sinks projects are clearly different from energy projects and have different requirements.

The agreement reached today has some positive elements. It includes provisions for the treatment of non-permanence - a recognition that sinks projects are temporary and can be reversed by fire, pests, clearcutting and other threats. Parties also recognise that sinks projects have significant socio-economic and environmental impacts.

"The new agreement includes minimal provisions in these areas, but it's better than nothing," said Stephen Kelleher, of WWF. "These commitments are not as strong as they could be, but considering the pressure that has been applied from some Parties to have absolutely no additional rules, this is a step forward."

The agreement falls short in three key areas :

* No exclusion of monoculture plantations

* No exclusion of genetically modified organisms

* The links between the sinks rules and other multilateral environmental agreements such as Convention on Biological Diversity are not strong enough.

"This text does not ensure that bad projects are excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism," said Steven Guilbeault, of Greenpeace International. "CAN will continue to work with CDM Watch, Sinks Watch, local communities and governments to identify and stop poorly designed sinks projects."

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