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Last in a series

Staff writer

Nations should roll up their sleeves and get working on the details of the Kyoto Protocol, while developed countries must meet legal obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says Meg McDonald, Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment.

McDonald lauded the preparatory ministerial discussions held in Tokyo last week involving representatives from 22 other nations and the European Union. She emphasized the importance of getting off to a quick and solid start at the fourth Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Convention on Climate Change in Argentina in November.

“We are quite keen to make the maximum amount of progress possible at COP4. We think it is very important that we start to provide some certainty and direction about the way the rules for the flexible mechanisms are going to be defined,” she said.

Under the protocol, nations can use three types of so-called flexible mechanisms — carbon emissions trading; joint implementation; and clean development mechanisms — to supplement domestic programs. But domestic action is premised on an international framework, the details of which have yet to be established.

“Until we have more definition of the rules that will apply in this overall framework, it simply will not be possible to move toward overall ratification. We, like everybody else, need more clarity. That is why we are working so actively to actually establish steps in that direction at COP4,” McDonald said.

Australia expects to greatly utilize the flexible mechanisms to meet its reduction requirement of 8 percent above 1990 levels by the years 2008 to 2012. “We will be using the flexible mechanisms very much, particularly the market-based instruments,” she said, adding that the nation believes that the introduction of the market mechanisms is a major step forward and will allow it to achieve reductions at places and times that are the least costly.

But before implementation is possible, accounting, monitoring, verification, reporting and compliance methodologies all need to be discussed. Australia is working on some of these — especially carbon accounting — domestically, but agreement on a framework and timetable is going to have to be a collective effort, McDonald said.

“We are moving toward a definition of the basic elements of what you need to do, but so far the discussions we have had at the official level have really just involved everybody setting out their views on what the basic elements are and comparing notes on that,” she said.

COP4, which will focus on the specifics of the protocol framework and timetables, may differ significantly from the desperate, late night, endurance discussions, characteristic of last year’s COP3 in Kyoto. “In the negotiations of the protocol, we were trying to define the scope of the instrument. Now what we are trying to do is collectively define the best way to implement (the protocol),” she said. “You can’t have a new protocol every COP,” she said.

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