Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Climate Interest Fading?; UNFCCC Last Session Before COP17/CMP7

Oct 11: A week of formal UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate negotiations in Panama City, Panama ended on Friday, October 7, with reportedly some progress on drafting the decision texts that will allow governments to move forward at the upcoming COP17/CMP7 meeting in Durban, South Africa November 28 to  - December 9, 2011. UNFCCC indicated in a release that the Panama meeting "made good progress on preparing the decisions that will help developing countries adapt to climate change and get access to the technologies they need to create their own clean energy futures." The COP is the "supreme body" of the Convention. The CMP is the "supreme body" of the Kyoto Protocol.
    Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary said, "This includes meeting deadlines for the launch of the new Adaptation Committee and Technology Mechanism which were agreed at last year's Cancun climate change conference. It also made clear progress on how efforts to limit emissions by developing countries will be matched with necessary support from developed countries in a transparent way. This includes work on a new Registry to record and account for this effort, which was also agreed
in Cancun.
    Figueres indicated that, "The progress made in Panama means governments can have more time and space in the coming weeks and during Durban to resolve those outstanding issues on the future of the global climate change regime which will require political guidance. Durban will have to resolve the open question over the future of the Kyoto Protocol and what that means for a future global climate agreement. Governments retain different positions but many technical issues related to this have already been brought to conclusion and there is a strong desire from all sides to see a final political decision made." She said that in Panama the South African Presidency led two inclusive and transparent consultations on those questions, one with governments and one with stakeholders and civil society.
    On the subject of financial support that developed countries have pledged to the developing world, Figueres said Panama had provided a better view of how the $30 billion (USD) in fast-track funds up to the end of 2012 have been committed and the plans to disburse them. Meanwhile, governments put forward their ideas for mobilizing the long-term finance that should reach USD100 billion a year by 2020. Figueres said, "It is critical that no financing gap occurs between the end of fast-start finance in 2012 and the ramp up of long-term finance to 2020."
    UNFCCC indicated that the Panama meeting also made some progress on the longer-term question of how governments will meet their agreed goal of limiting global average temperatures to no more than a 2 degree Centigrade (2C) rise. In Durban, governments will look to decide the shape of a formal Review between 2013 and 2015, which they agreed in Cancun as a reality check on progress towards their temperature goal. Governments discussed doing this via a possible expert body which would receive updates on the latest climate change science and its assessments. Figueres said, "Clarity on an effective, credible Review is most important, especially in light of the fact that the sum total of current national pledges to reduce global emissions falls 40% short of keeping below 2C and that gap will have to be filled in the future."
    While the UNFCCC painted an optimistic picture of the Panama meeting there was very little interest by U.S. interest groups, political leaders or news media. Others engaged in the process were not as encouraged and some even warned that the international negotiating process is on the verge of collapse. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF's) International Climate Program Director Jennifer Haverkamp observed, "Some positive signals came out of Panama – less rancor and obstructionism than we had come to expect this year, and some progress on teeing up negotiating texts -- but these glimmers of progress are eclipsed by the unresolved question of the Kyoto Protocol's future."

    Haverkamp said, "Our preferred Durban outcome is agreement on a timetable and pathway to a new mandatory agreement. Sad to say, that's looking like a heavy lift. But the prospect of a collapse of the existing legal framework will only strengthen the resolve of countries that actually want to tackle this problem to move forward in the avenues available to them. Much still needs to be done in the next six weeks if Durban is to successfully advance progress toward a climate regime that preserves the planet for our grandchildren in a form we would still recognize."

    Access a release from UNFCCC on the Panama meeting (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to more information and details from the Panama meeting (click here). Access a 16-page summary of the meeting from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a NYT report on the meeting (click here[#Climate]