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Dec 12, 2011

COP 17 breathes life into climate fund, sets agenda for future treaty

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‎The two-week-long seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP 17) came to an end in Durban this weekend with a fund launched to help poor nations fight climate change, countries agreeing to negotiate a legally binding deal on emissions reductions by 2015 to take effect by 2020, and the Kyoto Protocol extended.

The ‘Durban Platform’ would result in the full implementation of the package to support developing nations, agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico. Particularly key, is the $100-billion a year Green Climate Fund, which would become fully operational in 2012.

Countries have already started to pledge toward start-up costs of the fund, said COP 17 president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, also South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

This meant that the fund could be made ready in 2012, and at the same time could help developing countries get ready to access the fund.

This, the Minister said would boost developing countries efforts to establish their own clean energy futures and adapt to existing climate change.

A standing committee would monitor the climate finance in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to assist the COP. It would comprise 20 members, equally representing the developed and developing world.

A focused work programme on long-term finance was also agreed, which would contribute to the scaling up of climate change finance going forward, and analyse options for the mobilisation of resources from a variety of sources.

Other elements of the package included the implementation of an adaptation committee, tasked to improve the coordination of adaptation actions on a global scale, as well as a technology mechanism, also to be fully operational by 2012.

The full terms of reference for the operational arm of the mechanism, the Climate Technology Centre and Network, were agreed to, along with a clear procedure to select the host.

The UNFCCC secretariat would issue a call for proposals for hosts in January.

Governments also agreed a registry to record developing country mitigation actions that seek financial support and to match these with support. The registry aims to be a flexible, dynamic, web-based platform.

Interestingly, under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, governments adopted procedures to allow carbon-capture and storage projects. These guidelines would be reviewed every five years to ensure environmental integrity.

But, 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 2 oC on preindustrial levels.


The climate change talks also resulted in 195 parties agreeing to negotiate an universal legal agreement on climate change by no later than 2015, which will take effect in 2020.

This pledge by developed and developing nations would result in work beginning immediately under an ad hoc working group.

Only 38 industrialised countries agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013, with the first commitment period coming to an end in December 2012.

Parties to this second period would turn their economy-wide targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives and submit them for review by May 1, 2012.

“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,” said UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres.

A significantly advanced framework for the reporting of emission reductions for both developed and developing countries was also agreed, taking into consideration the common but differentiated responsibilities of different countries.

But, while a package to assist the developing world has been agreed to, as well as a roadmap to work towards a legally binding agreement, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) described COP 17 as a “failure” by governments.

WWF director-general Jim Leape said that politicians in Durban have shown an “alarming inability to come to grips with the challenge of climate change”.

However, they did concur that a comfort of the Durban negotiations was the emergence of a large coalition of high-ambition countries, led by the most vulnerable nations and small island States, including many in Africa.

“Overall, the responsibility for this failure lies with a handful of entrenched governments, such as the US, Japan, Russia and Canada, who have consistently raised the level of ambition on climate change,” WWF global climate and energy initiative leader Samantha Smith said.

But UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon argued that the decision to launch a protocol or a legal instrument applicable to all parties under the UNFCCC was essential for greater action and for raising the level of ambition and the mobilisation of resources to respond to the challenges of climate change.

He believed that the agreements at COP 17 “represented an important advance in the work of climate change”.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Researcher and Deputy Editor Online
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