Funding disputes delaying ozone protection

January 11, 2011

Parties to the 1987 Montreal Protocol failed this November to reach an agreement on how to fund the destruction of stockpiles of ozone-depleting substances (ODS), a step necessary for ensuring that the substances do not leak into the atmosphere. Financing is needed for the recovery of the substances from ODS ‘banks’ (chemical stockpiles and discarded products and equipment) and their subsequent destruction. But negotiators at the annual meeting of parties to the protocol—held in Bangkok, from 8 to 12 November—were unable to agree on sources for funding these activities.

The Montreal Protocol mandates the gradual phase-out of the production and consumption of a number of ODSs. Shortly after the treaty came into force, parties established a ‘Multilateral Fund’ (MLF) to assist developing countries with implementing the control measures specified by the treaty. Replenished every three years through developed countries’ contributions, the fund remains the key financial mechanism of the protocol.

But, countries disagree over whether the MLF should be the sole source of funding for ODS destruction or, indeed, whether it is appropriate to use this mechanism at all for this purpose. Disagreements also persist over types of alternative financing arrangements. Until this issue is resolved, ODS destruction activities might not go ahead in states that do not have the financial means to dispose of the banks themselves.

The absence of clear funding sources is largely due to the fact that ODS disposal is not mandated by the treaty, with attention having been primarily focused on consumption and production activities. Consequently, when some states in Bangkok argued that funding should come from the MLF, opponents maintained that ODS destruction ‘is not a compliance requirement under the Protocol’ and cannot, therefore, be covered by the MLF.

States opposed to drawing money from the MLF instead argued for using external funding sources, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a financial organization that provides environmental grants to developing countries. Many developed states pushed for GEF funding, underlining ‘the opportunities for partnership and co-financing that the GEF presents.’ But there was concern among developing countries that GEF could prioritize other multilateral environmental agreements over the ozone treaty. They also pointed out that the GEF had not provided adequate funds for ODS destruction in the past.

Another option proposed at the meeting was the use of voluntary carbon markets, which would allow countries to earn carbon credits through the destruction of ozone-depleting substances.

Despite not being included in the treaty’s provisions, bank destruction is an important activity because these holdings can release ODSs into the atmosphere, damaging both the ozone layer and the climate. According to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UNEP’s Technical and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP), 20 per cent of ODSs (measured in carbon-dioxide equivalent) have leaked from ODS banks since 2002.

The TEAP has also pointed out that, if unmanaged, those banks which are relatively easy and cheap to destroy will have released most of their stored gases by 2020.

Despite the impasse over funding, the parties did make some progress on ODS destruction mechanisms. They agreed to request the TEAP to review the list of destruction technologies adopted by parties at a previous meeting and to ‘develop criteria that should be used to verify the destruction of ODS in facilities that use appropriate ODS destruction technologies.’ But as long as the funding issue is not resolved, the overall rate of ODS bank disposal will be restricted and opportunities to prevent emissions from easily destroyable banks could be missed.

Agata Slota, London


Cancun climate talks show signs of progress

January 11, 2011

In December of last year, after two weeks of negotiations, the annual UN climate change conference ended with the adoption of an important set of agreements. Gathering over 190 countries together, the event encompassed negotiating tracks on the UN climate convention and its Kyoto Protocol, as well as sessions of both subsidiary bodies and numerous side-events. Named after the Mexican city where the meeting was held, the ‘Cancun Agreements’ hold a good deal of promise for future efforts on climate change.

The agreements reaffirm and go beyond the accord reached at the previous UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, which ended largely in disappointment, and polarisation on a number of issues, last year. These agreements show progress on several major areas including emissions reductions, finance, forests, and transparency. Although some may have viewed the outcome as rather modest (in particular with regard to the depth of emissions targets set), the agreements reached in Cancun have established a series of goals, institutions and processes that will be instrumental in accelerating action on climate change. These negotiations were also characterized by a marked change in mood since Copenhagen, with countries apparently showing greater willingness to collaborate with one another. Indeed, this new spirit fo cooperation and the tangible progress made in Cancun have helped to revitalize the UN negotiating process.

However, due to the pace of negotiations so far, and the set-backs of Copenhagen, the Cancun meeting began from a low baseline. Thus, although progress has been made, the level of ambition in addressing climate change needs to be raised significantly. In addition, there is a considerable amount of work still left to be done in order to flesh out the framework adopted in Cancun. The agreements establish a platform for action; the detailed working procedures still need to be developed.

Technology, adaptation and finance also feature in the Cancun Agreements with a new set of frameworks and institutions to push for progress in these areas. Of particular importance—both in terms of climate action and relationships between countries—was the reaffirmation of a commitment by developed countries to specific amounts of financial assistance and to timelines for its provision. Cancun also established a ‘Green Climate Fund’ governed by a board composed of an equal number of members from developing and developed country parties.

The agreements contain a significant development for the treaty’s verification procedures. Though arguments over transparency and accountability have soured relationships in the past, a broad monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) framework has now been established, building on existing structures.

The framework enhances MRV reporting requirements of both developed and developing countries, but still distinguishes between them on the basis of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. Developed countries are to improve MRV of emissions, implementation of mitigation measures and financial support—with reviews to be conducted by technical experts. Measures to improve MRV by developing countries were also agreed.

But it was progress on forests and climate change that many consider to be among the most positive of all the results from Cancun. Some major issues remain outstanding—finance and functional defintions of key terms among them—but the decision includes an agreement on an overall goal to reduce emissions, to address the drivers of deforestation and to establish forest monitoring systems.

Critically, the decision on forests includes requirements for upholding social and environmental safeguards and systems for generating information on progress on these issues. Strengthening forest governance and systems designed to assist in policy development and implementation have been a key component of VERTIC’s work on climate change for a number of years. The progress made in Cancun is welcome, but it will be important to ensure that good intentions are put into practice in the years ahead.

Sonia Drobysz, Paris


Laser monitoring of UF6 cylinders developed

January 11, 2011

During the recent IAEA Safeguards Symposium in Vienna, attention focused not only on ways to safeguard new GEN IV reactors, but also on how to implement new safeguards approaches for existing facilities. One such approach, in testing by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission since March 2009, involves a laser-based monitoring technique to track uranium hexafluoride (UF6) cylinders while in motion. According to the JRC’s presentation to the Safeguards Symposium, the system is now able to recognise all types of cylinders—which holds a great deal of promise for future verification activities.

UF6 can be used in enrichment operations. Although it is processed in civil enrichment plants to produce low-enriched uranium, it can also be used to produce high-enriched uranium for nuclear explosives. From a non-proliferation perspective, it is therefore important to ensure that declarations concerning the flow of cylinders used to store, transport and process UF6 are correct.

Different identification techniques for UF6 cylinders were evaluated between 2005 and 2007, including stand-alone surveillance, identification tags, passive radio frequency and reflective particle tags. But the operators were either reluctant to use these techniques, or they proved to be insufficiently effective. Laser based technology—which permits the cylinder surface to be scanned—was then examined, and two techniques suggested. The British company Ingenia Technology Limited worked on a laser surface authentication system (LSA) that was ultimately not selected by the IAEA. As Stéphanie Poirier from the IAEA Department of Safeguards explained in 2007, this was because ‘the proximity of the laser to the cylinder being scanned was too close for UF6 cylinders’ and ‘too much constraint [was put] on the field system and the operator’.

A different technique, one which uses 3-D laser surface mapping was instead chosen for the Agency’s Laser Item Identification System (L2IS). Developed by the JRC, it captures the cylinder’s side surface, which becomes a ‘fingerprint’. The verification process comprises two steps: the first is an ‘attended initial scan’ during which cylinders are made available so that their ‘surface identity’ can be established and stored in a laptop. The second step is an ‘unattended scan’ which records the surface identity of all cylinders entering and exiting the enrichment process area. At this stage, the L2IS is coupled with the IAEA standard surveillance system. Ms Poirier concluded in 2007 that ‘the L2IS system appears to be reliable and consistent with the needs specified by the IAEA’; it also contributes to the objective of optimizing safeguards activities by decreasing the inspection implementation workload.

Sonia Drobysz, Paris


National Implementation Measures Programme

January 11, 2011

Between October and December 2010, the NIM Programme completed 7 legislative surveys. Staff conducted one legislative drafting workshop that also included a session to raise awareness among the key national stakeholders on BWC implementation.

NIM staff contributed to the Regional BWC Implementation workshop held in Abuja, Nigeria, 25-27 October, where they liaised with several countries on ratification of the convention. The team also contributed to a workshop held in Beijing, China, on ‘Strengthening International Efforts to Prevent the Proliferation of Biological Weapons: The Role of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention’, held between 4-6 November. Additionally, the NIM Programme presented a paper at the ‘Global Networking to Promote Biosecurity and Limit Dual Use Risks’ seminar held in Como, Italy, 12-13 November, Italy. The NIM team was also present at the Lima regional workshop on implementation of the UNSCR 1540, from 7-9 November. VERTIC discussed approaches and further co-operation with participating countries on strengthening their legislation for implementation of the BWC and UNSC Resolution 1540.

The NIM Programme engaged with the scientific community at the seminar ‘Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention’ held in Beijing, from 31 October to 3 November, and at the ‘Biosafety Association for Central Asia and the Caucasus (BACAC) 2nd Annual Conference’, held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, from 9 to 13 November.

Members of the team also had the opportunity to actively participate in two practical exercises simulating the response to biological or chemical incidents: the ‘BIOSHIELD Global 2010’ held in Utrecht, Netherlands, between 16-18 November, and the ‘Table-top exercise: Preparedness of States Parties to prevent terrorist attacks involving chemicals’ held in Warsaw, Poland, from 22-23 November.

Three members of the team participated in the annual Conference of States Parties to the CWC, held in The Hague from 29 November to 3 December and actively contributed to the CWC Coalition. The entire NIM team attended the BWC Meeting of States Parties (MSP) in Geneva, from 6-10 December. VERTIC delivered a statement in Arabic highlighting the threat of bioterrorism and the need to strengthen biosafety and biosecurity measures in laboratories. VERTIC urged parties to consider important issues such BWC universality, implementation and the strengthening of the Confidence Building Measures mechanism in their deliberations for the upcoming Seventh Review Conference. VERTIC hosted a breakfast seminar during the BWC MSP where the new NIM Database and VERTIC website were launched and VERTIC’s Rome Statute Article was presented.

Finally, the NIM Programme wishes to thank Kara Allen and Agata Slota for assisting the team during their internships.


Arms Control and Disarmament Programme

January 11, 2011

In October, members of the Arms Control and Disarmament team travelled to the United States to promote VERTIC’s recently-released publication on Verifying Warhead Dismantlement. During the trip, Andreas Persbo presented the main findings of the report to the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs and the EastWest Institute in New York City, and at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in Washington, DC. October also saw Hassan Elbahtimy travel to Austria to lecture on verification, as part of a course run by the CTBTO in Vienna. He also participated in a Pugwash consultation on the Middle East in the UK.

In early November, Mr Elbahtimy travelled back to Vienna to attend the IAEA Safeguards Symposium, as part of a delegation that also included Andreas Persbo, David Cliff and the nuclear team’s newest volunteer, Sonia Drobysz. At the symposium, Mr Persbo delivered a presentation on the verification of warhead dismantlement, and VERTIC subsequently submitted a paper on the subject for inclusion in the conference compendium.

During November, Mr Persbo also participated in a high-level roundtable discussion organized by the United Nations Association of the UK. Then, in late November, the VERTIC ACD Programme hosted a book launch for John Walker of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whose book on British Nuclear Weapons and the Test Ban 1954-73 has recently been released.

In December, Mr Persbo took part in a conference on nuclear non-proliferation at Wilton Park in West Sussex, and VERTIC’s newest briefs—on the 2010 NPT Review Conference and the IAEA General Conference—were released (and made available for download on our newly-redesigned website). Aside from these activities, the VERTIC nuclear team is currently fully engaged in a project investigating the concept of irreversibility in nuclear disarmament, on schedule to be released in March.


Environment Programme

January 11, 2011

In early October, the Environment Programme’s Larry MacFaul was invited to participate in a stakeholder consultation on the UK’s timber procurement policy and level of service provided by the Central Point of Expertise for Timber Procurement or ‘CPET’. During October, the Environment Programme also attended a meeting to discuss how stakeholders can collaborate to address the exploitation of Flags of Convenience by illegal ‘pirate’ fishing vessels. This meeting, held in London, was hosted by the Environmental Justice Foundation and the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development. The event brought together representatives from a range of NGOs, policy think-tanks, academic institutions, trade unions and other interest groups.

In November, Larry was invited to participate in a civil society consultation on the UK government initiative for a new Forest Governance, Markets and Climate (FGMC) programme. The purpose of the meeting was to review the proposed programme’s purpose, outputs and scope. Set up by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the programme will build on the current Forest Governance and Trade Programme, due to end in 2011. This consultation took place in London, in the offices of DFID, and included representatives from both NGOs and the private sector.

November also saw Larry spend time using his environmental expertise to help in the field of security. He travelled to Geneva in order to give a presentation in a seminar on ‘International Aspects of Arms Trade Treaty Implementation: Learning from existing international agreements’. The seminar, which ran between 10-11 November, was hosted by Saferworld and included representatives from governments and international organizations.

The aim of the Saferworld seminar was to examine what kind of provisions and institutional architecture the nascent Arms Trade Treaty needs in order to ensure that it is both effective and durable. The meeting was also intended to build awareness of the importance of these issues in the negotiations on the treaty. The meeting’s sessions looked at monitoring and reporting arrangements, review processes, consultations and dispute settlement, and capacity building.

The seminar included speakers on a range of international agreements and structures—including on conventional arms transfers, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, UN Security Council Resolution 1540, the convention on nuclear safety, international human rights instruments, the World Trade Organization and various environmental treaties.

Mr MacFaul gave his presentation during the session on Monitoring Implementation. In his presentation, he provided an overview of the institutional bodies and processes that make up the UN climate regime and the rationale for their establishment. He also contributed to the debate using VERTIC’s experience in policies and measures on trade in natural resources. Owen Greene, Co-Chair of VERTIC’s Board of Directors, also presented in this session, drawing lessons from the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.


Grants and Administration

January 11, 2011

In this quarter, VERTIC received £54,500 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for the project ‘Combating the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological material: defining an action plan’. The FCO also provides on-going support for VERTIC’s project on ‘Legislative Assistance to Ensure Non-Proliferation of NBC Weapons’.

The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs awarded VERTIC a grant of £29,242 for a project to study the concept of irreversibility in nuclear disarmament. VERTIC is grateful to all our funders for their support.

The VERTIC website has recently undergone a comprehensive makeover to give it greater user-friendliness and bring it up-to-date with the latest online tools. A new logo to celebrate VERTIC’s 25th anniversary has also been developed and incorporated into the design of the new website.

In November 2010, Sonia Drobysz joined the Arms Control & Disarmament Programme as a volunteer. Sonia, who is based in Paris, previously assisted with the VERTIC dismantlement report and was a valued member of the VERTIC delegation to both the IAEA General Conference last September and the Agency’s Safeguards Symposium in November. Agata Slota and Ramee Mossa are currently providing assistance to VERTIC through our internship programme.