Monday, December 12, 2011

In Overtime, Durban Negotiators Salvage An Agreement

Dec 11: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP17/CMP7 meeting in Durban, South Africa, which was scheduled to conclude Friday, December 9, went into overtime and finally ended on Sunday, December 11. The outcome of the 2-week negotiations in now known as the "Durban Platform."
    According to a release from the UNFCCC, which definitely puts a positive spin on the outcome of the difficult negotiations indicates that the parties delivered a "breakthrough on the future of the international community's response to climate change," while "recognizing the urgent need to raise their collective level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius." Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and President of the Durban UN Climate Change Conference (COP17/CMP7) said, "We have taken crucial steps forward for the common good and the global citizenry today. I believe that what we have achieved in Durban will play a central role in saving tomorrow."

    Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC said, "I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose - a long-term solution to climate change. I sincerely thank the South African Presidency who steered through a long and intense conference to a historic agreement that has met all major issues." In a Reuters media report of various reactions, Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change indicated, "In the end, it ended up quite well. The (Durban platform) is the piece that was the matching piece with the Kyoto Protocol. We got the kind of symmetry that we had been focused on since the beginning of the Obama administration. This had all the elements that we were looking for."

    The UNFCCC release indicates that in Durban, governments decided to "adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, but not later than 2015." Work will begin on this immediately under a new group called the "Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action." Governments, including 35 industrialized countries, "agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013." To achieve rapid clarity, "Parties to this second period will turn their economy-wide targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives and submit them for review by May 1, 2012." Figueres said, "This is highly significant because the Kyoto Protocol's accounting rules, mechanisms and markets all remain in action as effective tools to leverage global climate action and as models to inform future agreements."

    UNFCCC indicates that a significantly advanced framework for the reporting of emission reductions for both developed and developing countries was also agreed to, taking into consideration the "common but differentiated responsibilities" of different countries. In addition to charting the way forward on reducing greenhouse gases in the global context, governments meeting in South Africa agreed the full implementation of the package to support developing nations, agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico. Figueres said, "This means that urgent support for the developing world, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, will also be launched on time." The package includes the Green Climate Fund, an Adaptation Committee designed to improve the coordination of adaptation actions on a global scale, and a Technology Mechanism, which are to become fully operational in 2012.

    While pledging to make progress in a number of areas, governments acknowledged the urgent concern that the current sum of pledges to cut emissions both from developed and developing countries is not high enough to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. They therefore decided that the UN Climate Change process shall increase ambition to act and will be led by the climate science in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report and the global Review from 2013-2015. Figueres said, "While it is clear that these deadlines must be met, countries, citizens and businesses who have been behind the rising global wave of climate action can now push ahead confidently, knowing that Durban has lit up a broader highway to a low-emission, climate resilient future." The next major UNFCCC Climate Change Conference, COP 18/ CMP 8, is to take place November 26 to December 7,  2012 in Qatar, in close cooperation with the Republic of Korea. UNFCCC summarized the COP17 decisions as follows:

    Green Climate Fund

  • Countries have already started to pledge to contribute to start-up costs of the fund, meaning it can be made ready in 2012, and at the same time can help developing countries get ready to access the fund, boosting their efforts to establish their own clean energy futures and adapt to existing climate change.
  • A Standing Committee is to keep an overview of climate finance in the context of the UNFCCC and to assist the Conference of the Parties. It will comprise 20 members, represented equally between the developed and developing world.
  • A focused work program on long-term finance was agreed, which will contribute to the scaling up of climate change finance going forward and will analyze options for the mobilization of resources from a variety of sources.
  • The Adaptation Committee, composed of 16 members, will report to the COP on its efforts to improve the coordination of adaptation actions at a global scale.
  • The adaptive capacities above all of the poorest and most vulnerable countries are to be strengthened. National Adaptation Plans will allow developing countries to assess and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
  • The most vulnerable are to receive better protection against loss and damage caused by extreme weather events related to climate change.
  • The Technology Mechanism will become fully operational in 2012.
  • The full terms of reference for the operational arm of the Mechanism - the Climate Technology Centre and Network - are agreed, along with a clear procedure to select the host. The UNFCCC secretariat will issue a call for proposals for hosts on January 16, 2012.
    Support of developing country action
  • Governments agreed a registry to record developing country mitigation actions that seek financial support and to match these with support. The registry will be a flexible, dynamic, web-based platform.
    Other key decisions
  • A forum and work program on unintended consequences of climate change actions and policies were established.
  • Under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, governments adopted procedures to allow carbon-capture and storage projects. These guidelines will be reviewed every five years to ensure environmental integrity.
  • Governments agreed to develop a new market-based mechanism to assist developed countries in meeting part of their targets or commitments under the Convention. Details of this will be taken forward in 2012.
    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) International Climate Policy Director Jake Schmidt issued a statement saying: "The United States saw an opportunity to break down the wall blocking adoption of binding commitments by the largest emitting developing countries and took advantage of that. This outcome brings large countries like China and India into the room to negotiate meaningful commitments to address the urgent need to cut global emissions. This is important progress. Countries followed through on their agreements from Cancun by outlining detailed guidelines for more frequent reporting of their pollution and actions to combat global warming. This will mean greater transparency and accountability which is essential for ensuring that all countries are living up to their commitments. Countries now must follow through on the commitments they made in Durban. They must act at home, while also continuously working toward even more detailed international agreements in the near future."
    Jennifer Haverkamp, director of the international climate program for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "With tonight's agreement the world's climate polluters take the first small but essential steps toward creating a new global agreement to curb climate change. For the first time all major emitting nations, including China and India, have agreed on the need to move forward – and to do so together. The challenge is that we begin the talks from the lowest common denominator of every party's aspirations. For this effort to be successful, countries need to be ambitious in their commitments and to refuse to use these negotiations as just another stalling tool."
    Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said, "While governments avoided disaster in Durban, they by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change. The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed. It's high time governments stopped catering to the needs of corporate polluters, and started acting to protect people. The impacts of climate change are ever more evident, and we pump ever more carbon pollution into the atmosphere each year. We are in grave danger of locking in temperature increases well above two degrees Celsius, which would foreclose our ability to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Powerful speeches and carefully worded decisions can't amend the laws of physics. The atmosphere responds to one thing, and one thing only -- emissions. The world's collective level of ambition on emissions reductions must be substantially increased, and soon."
    Access a release from UNFCCC (click here). Access links to the key text of the Durban documents (click here). [#Access the Reuters article which includes reactions from many key participants (click here). Access the statement from NRDC and link to additional details (click here). Access the statement from EDF (click here). Access the statement from UCS (click here). Access the U.S. State Department COP17 website for details on the U.S. activities (click here). Access links to complete information from the UNFCCC website (click here). Access the CO.NX digital diplomacy team website with the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) at the U.S. Department of State for a back-stage pass to COP17 (click here). Access more information and day-by-day coverage from International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Reporting Services (click here, a summary & analysis will be available on Dec. 13). [#Climate]