Procedure for Proposing Protocols

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Date produced: 11/12/2009

Does a proposal to get a new protocol out of the LCA track have to be discussed in a specific contact group? If so, does this contact group have to be opened by a specific COP agenda item ? Is this the only procedure or is there another way procedurally to get a protocol outcome?

At the outset, it is important to note that the only method for adoption of a Protocol is through the procedure as set out in Article 17 on the UNFCCC.  This is achieved if the proposed text of the proposed protocol is provided by the secretariat to the parties six months before the meeting of the parties, and if it is then adopted by the Conference of the parties. This means proposed Protocols must be sent to the secretariat before the six month deadline, in order for the secretariat to send it to the parties within the required timeframe.

It appears that the time period requirement has been met in respect of the proposed texts submitted by Mexico, Tuvalu, Japan, and Costa Rica and in relation to these texts, this tool could be used should it be necessary during the Meeting.

There are two routes that the parties could choose to go down to push for the adoption of a specific text for a protocol. They can loosely be described as either a formal or informal route.

Formal route

Should a party elect to proceed along the formal route, they will table an agenda item to the COP, with a request that a contact group be established to deal with proposal. Whether this will then proceed is then formally debated by the parties.

The advantages of proceeding in this matter are that, having been formally tabled:

  • the matter may remain open on the agenda to be addressed at later stages if it is not dealt with to the satisfaction of the proposer; and
  • the issue then becomes transparent, and can be debated by not only the parties, but also the observers, and may gain traction in this manner; and furthermore
  • establishing a contact group will necessitate the group reporting back to the COP on the outcome of any consultations.

Obviously, this also amounts, to a certain extent, to placing all the cards on the table, and thus faces counter proposals, disputes and having the proposal rejected by other interest groups.

Informal route

The other option is to try and bring the item to the table through an informal process.  Here, the proposer has the opportunity to canvas support and gauge reactions from other parties, with the hope of generating support before the item is formally tabled.  In this manner, parties hope to generate sufficient support to ensure that the proposal is guaranteed success when formally tabled.

This is a much used strategy, and allows parties to test ideas and judge support without the formal scrutiny by people who may not prove sympathetic to the idea.

However, at the end of the day, any proposal will still have to be subjected to formal submission to the Conference, in terms of Article 17. The decision as to when to adopt the formal process is one of strategy more than procedure.