Update on Durban negotiations

09 Dec 2011

The climate change talks in Durban continue to be dominated by two main issues: the future of the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund. As well, negotiators need to make clear decisions that will bring last year’s Cancun Agreements to life. Issues include enhanced action on adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building and voluntary mitigation actions by countries. 

Kyoto Protocol

Some observers at the negotiations are saying that there appears to be a good chance of an agreement for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Just how this will happen, however, appears to be up in the air. It might not be through a legal procedure with amendments to the Protocol followed by ratification by all Parties, but rather through a political process. This could be a decision in Durban or through declarations by individual countries that have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol. The difference is binding commitments agreed to by all parties, versus voluntary or “unilateral” commitments. The latter may not be enough.

There has been much reference to UNEP’s Bridging the Gap Report. The Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) has tabled a draft decision based on the report and its recommendations. AOSIS has repeatedly stated that a legally binding agreement is only effective if it commits parties to ambitious outcomes.

An agreement for a second Kyoto commitment period or a new legally binding agreement that locks in low-level ambition reduction targets risks being meaningless because it will do nothing to avert the disaster that low-lying countries are facing, nor will it slow the increasingly severe changes faced by the Arctic.This position has been forcefully argued by Ronny Jumeau, the Seychelles Ambassador to the UN and MSV partner.

This point was emphasized a couple of days ago in a statement by the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Kirt Ejesiak, Vice President of ICC-Canada, pointed to the need for strong emission reduction commitments at Durban.

“Since those initial Kyoto pledges, melting Arctic snow and ice have demonstrated that climate change is real, and it’s happening now.  At the end of the day, the future of the Arctic depends on adopting an ambitious, binding agreement to limit global emissions and keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees.”

The most significant development after nine days of negotiations is China’s announcement that it would sign up to a “post-2020 legally binding framework” (with certain conditions, which includes the need for a second commitment period).

As well, there is growing support for the EU’s proposed “roadmap” to begin a process to negotiate a new legally binding commitment that brings in all major emitters by 2015, and to be implemented by 2020. The US appears to be willing to agree to a “post-2020” deal. There are also signs that India may agree, subject to conditions.

Green Climate Fund

It is expected that the Green Climate Fund will be operational by the end of this round of negotiations. The fund was agreed to in Copenhagen in 2009 and getting it running was one of the goals laid out for this round of negotiations. The Green Climate Fund is to provide short- and long-term financing to developing countries for mitigation including REDD-plus, adaptation, capacity-building, technology development and transfer. It is to be launched with 30 billion dollars in contributions from the developed countries and the funding is to increase to 100 billion by 2020. A draft decision text is still being negotiated. 

Other matters still being negotiated deal with “operationalizing” elements of last year’s Cancun Agreements. These include decisions on enhancing action on adaptation, technology and voluntary mitigation (emissions reduction) actions. A number of items are unresolved and will be sent to the Ministers, now assembled in Durban, for decision.

There is some progress as well on key issues including finance, technology and REDD.


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