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Fogel, Cathy. 2000. "Sinking into It: Initial Uses and Perceptions of the IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF)." Draft Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) Discussion Paper. Cambridge, MA: Environment and Natural Resources Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


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This paper analyzes the role that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) is playing in the formation of global climate change policy under the Kyoto Protocol.  Given the recent release of the assessment, two main questions are posed:  how is the IPCC Special Report on LULUCF being used by governmental negotiators and other stakeholders in the Kyoto Protocol policy process?  And, how is it being perceived by such stakeholders in terms of its credibility, legitimacy and salience?  To explore these questions the paper begins by briefly reviewing the basic frame elements that comprise the Kyoto Protocol land-use, land use change and forestry provisions.  It then describes the process of the preparation of the IPCC report as it relates to the ongoing Kyoto Protocol discussions.  It explores in detail the report’s initial dissemination, uptake and use by governmental LULUCF negotiators at the SBSTA 12 meeting of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC).  Finally, drawing from semi-structured interviews conducted at SBSTA 12, the paper explores governmental stakeholders’ perceptions of the report in three areas of concern to the Global Environmental Assessment Project:  credibility, legitimacy, and salience.

Main conclusions of the paper are that a primary use of the IPCC Special Report on LULUCF at present is its strategic citation as an authoritative scientific source to legitimate the policy preferences of Parties that support rapid progress towards a comprehensive approach to land use, land use change and forestry under the Kyoto Protocol.  Those Parties opposed to or unclear about the comprehensive approach tend to avoid references to the report as “scientific” and emphasize its uncertainties, omissions and weaknesses in their public statements.  Such Parties also cite the complexity and recent completion of the report as a justification for slowing the negotiating process down.  Similarly, regional groupings, such as the European Union, cite the report as a justification for their preferred policy position, that of a “cautious approach” towards land-based “sinks” in the Kyoto Protocol.  Other uses of the report include its possible direct use in shaping the textual provisions of upcoming LULUCF decisions at COP 6.

Key findings with regards to stakeholder perceptions of the assessment in terms of its credibility, legitimacy and salience are that theoretical frameworks designed to explain the determinants of effective scientific assessments, should accord greater priority to the context of the social relationships between users and producers of scientific assessments and the uses to which the knowledge is to be put.  In particular, stakeholders’ assessments of the perceived risks and benefits they assume in either accepting or rejecting an assessment’s findings appear to offer more explanatory insight in this case than explanations based solely on stakeholders’ presumed “openness,” or “interest,” or “capacity.”  Other important explanators were the expectation of financial benefits or losses and the utility of the report in either supporting or undercutting particular policy positions.


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