Remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations


Remarks by Dr. Mark J. Mwandosya to the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, U.S.A., 20th May, 1998


I appreciate the opportunity accorded to me of addressing this august gathering. In doing so I follow the footstep of greater mortals than me, reminding me of John the Baptist, "A man is coming after me, but he is greater than I am, because he existed before I was born". The list of those who have appeared before you and the membership does indeed reflect the who is who in global leadership. I am, therefore, humbled by your gesture and the recognition of the arduous, yet most fulfilling task, that I did for my country on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. For, I recall how admirably well and toughly, Under Secretary of State Stuart Eizenstat and Acting Assistant Secretary Melinda Kimble defended the position of the United States in Room H of the Kyoto International Conference Centre, where, under the stern stewardship of Ambassador Estrada of Argentina and Chairman of the Kyoto United Nations Conference on Climate Change, Members of the Group of 10, myself being one of them, were able to finally come up with an outline of what became the 1997 final Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is therefore an honour and a privilege that I should today share the same platform with Melinda.

I have prefaced my remarks on Post Kyoto as such because the simple answer to the question Can the US and Developing Countries Agree on a Course of Action? is, ‘yes of course '. We actually agreed on that Course of Action in Kyoto and well before Kyoto, in the context of the Implementation of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Let me elaborate areas of convergence and exploit those areas as the basis for future common action. I begin with principles or rather fundamentals:

  1. The US and developing countries are concerned that human- induced change of the climate system will adversely affect natural ecosystems and human kind itself.

  2. Following on the aforesaid the US and developing countries acknowledge that climate change is global in nature and calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries.

  3. This cooperation is underpinned by common but differentiated responsibilities, respective capabilities, and respective social and economic conditions.

  4. The US and developing countries accept that historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases have originated in developed countries. On current emissions, President Clinton has aptly summarised the situation thus: The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's people, enjoys 22 percent of the world's wealth, but emits more than 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

  5. To be fair to the United States I have to state that according to IPCC the annual emissions of developing countries are increasing and will equal those of developed countries by 2037. However, the resulting induced changes in temperature from developing countries are estimated to equal those of developed countries only in the year 2147.

The Achievement of Kyoto

An old African adage states that, "if you do not know where you are going you should at least remember where you have come from". It all started in Berlin in 1995 when, as a first step in the process of the review of adequacy of commitments of developed country parties, developed countries including the United States, and developing countries found those to be inadequate. Kyoto was the culmination of negotiations on how to get moving from the first step.

The Berlin Mandate called for specific targets for the reduction of gases to be attained within specified time frames. Specific targets were agreed in Kyoto and within specific time horizons. Realistic targets? I am not sure. For science tells us that unless we do something very dramatic, such as reductions of the order of 60 percent, global warming resulting from historical emissions by developed countries will continue to affect us adversely. At Kyoto developing countries opposed market-based flexibility arrangements of the type of joint implementation, emission trading and clean development mechanism, especially the latter in the form of camouflaged joint implementation with emission credits accruing to developed countries. Our concern was, and still is, on extra- territorial implementation of commitments. Yet we joined the US and other developed countries in unanimously adopting the Kyoto Protocol. From the foregoing, clearly, in Kyoto, the US got more than it bargained for, within of course, the remit of the Berlin Mandate.

Role of Developing Countries

Outside the Berlin Mandate, and now that the mandate has elapsed, is the vexing question of participation of developing countries. The assumption here is that the US and other developing countries are the ones that are doing the most to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I suspect we have not been effective in putting our case across to people in developed countries. As developing countries, we are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Extreme weather conditions, sea level rise, intense typhoons and persistent droughts are a manifestation of changing climate trends and a harbinger of events yet to come.

As we struggle to master the effects of nature and the environment, rather unsuccessfully, we are faced with the challenge of poverty which is the very antithesis of sound environmental management. For even the United Nations Convention on Climate Change recognises that economic and social development, and poverty eradication, are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries.

So as and not to appear selective in the choice of Articles of the Convention, I will also state that while recognition is given to the fact that energy consumption in developing countries will need to grow and consequently our share of global emissions will also grow to meet our social and developmental needs, we will need to grow responsibly through taking into account possibilities for greater energy efficiency and through controlling greenhouse gas emissions in general. In this regard, allow me to summarise some of policies and measures being adopted by many developing countries which go far beyond commitments under the Convention and the Protocol:

  1. Many countries are undergoing the process of economic restructuring with economic efficiency being an objective;

  2. In many developing countries fossil fuel subsidies have decreased by 45% over the last five years;

  3. Some countries have introduced gasoline with 50% ethanol;

  4. Cogeneration and energy efficiency are becoming buzz-words in electricity supply and end use, respectively;

  1. Tax exemptions and duty waivers have been introduced to encourage renewable energy initiatives;

  2. Transport and industry policies are being revised to take into account efficiency; and

  3. Policies are being implemented for sustainable management of forests.

Some of you may ask what seems to be an obvious question, "If you are doing all that, why don't you take binding commitments?" The answer is equally direct. The phrase common but differentiated responsibilities, means responsibilities for both sides: for developed countries to take the lead in stabilising concentrations of greenhouse gases and for developing countries to achieve sustainable development in such a manner as to contribute to the ultimate objective of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. The US and other developed countries must take the lead in addressing climate change. They have the ability, financial resources and technology to do so. They lack the will. Developing countries do not have the financial resources and the technology to address climate change. They have the will.

A Partnership

Can the US and Developing Countries Agree on a Course of Action? that is the question. The answer again is "yes", and Kyoto has shown the way. Post Kyoto has a loaded agenda

  1. We have to elaborate further the flexible mechanisms we defined in Kyoto.

  2. We have to agree on the fundamentals and underlying principles for these mechanisms and overcome the deep-rooted scepticism to flexible mechanisms by developing countries.

  3. We have to be patient and accept that the new and untested mechanisms adopted at Kyoto require a long 'learning curve

  4. We have to accept that these mechanisms are supplemental to domestic action in developed countries.

  1. We have to work together to remove the intense suspicion on the part of developing countries that flexible mechanisms are ways of allowing developed countries to buy their way out of domestic action.

  2. We have to dispel the fear that the continued urging by developed countries for common action, is orchestrated so that industrialised countries can continue to pollute, freely.

  3. We need to work together to provide an enabling environment for private sector participation without abandoning the role of Nations as Parties to the Convention and Protocol.

What can the US do to foster a global partnership?

  1. The US should sign the Kyoto Protocol.

  2. The US should then move on to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

  3. The US should further support the US Country Studies Programme so that we all can build on its solid and very sound foundation.

  4. The US and other developed countries should foster capacity building through strengthening institutions in developing countries and making available scholarships in the environment and climate change disciplines

  5. The US and other developed countries should engage developing countries, in good faith, in discussions on financial resource constraints and technology transfer

  6. Developed countries should listen to the concerns of developing countries and enter into a meaningful dialogue on how to achieve the ultimate goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Concluding Remarks

I submit that if the aforementioned is taken into account, we will witness the evolution of a strong partnership to confront what President William Jefferson Clinton has rightly referred to as the most important challenge of the coming century. And we are at the threshold of that new century and the new millennium!!

I would like to end the same way I started by thanking you and saying how much honour you have done me, and my country.

Thank you.