The low level of ambition in climate change negotiations is a “serious concern”, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday, addressing 21 environmental ministers accompanied by negotiators and delegates from 43 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) member states gathered in Pretoria.
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is the incoming conference of the parties (COP) president, said that the informal discussions in Pretoria focused on means of implementation – recognising that the issue of finance was vital to a successful outcome in Durban, where COP 17 would be held.
“Parties have expressed their commitment to the finance commitments, despite the difficult situation globally. The discussions have also noted the need to operationalise the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as soon as possible,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.
Operationalisation of the institutions agreed to in Cancun at COP 16, which include the GCF, the Technology Mechanism, and the Adaptation Framework were said to be on track.
“These will be important deliverables for Durban,” stated UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres, who noted that the Technology Mechanism executive committee recently concluded its first meeting, and the GCF transitional committee would convene their third meeting in Geneva from Saturday.
The other vital requirement from Durban would be to provide certainty on the future of the Kyoto Protocol – the first commitment period of which comes to an end in 2012.
“We must have clarity [on the Kyoto Protocol] in Durban,” reiterated Figueres, noting that how to solve the divergence of opinion on this issue was being discussed at the informal meeting.
Current COP president and Mexican Minister Patricia Espinosa said that the Kyoto Protocol was an absolute necessity. She said that a clear commitment would be required and, it was clear that the Kyoto Protocol would need to be complemented.
Some UNFCCC member states were calling for the abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol. Countries such as the US, Canada and Japan have said that they would not sign on to such a treaty.
Most developing nations were calling emphatically for the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol – South Africa being one of them − and some countries were calling for a reformed type of Kyoto Protocol to be implemented.
“We need political agreement on what kind of a political [climate change] regime we will have after 2012,” said Espinosa.
Often bogged down by political differences and issues of multilateral negotiation, President Zuma reminded delegates that any outcome in Durban had to be adequate enough to respond to the principle of environmental integrity.
“A less ambitious outcome that would not address the needs of those seriously affected by climate change and that fall short of allowing future generations the opportunity to grow and to live in a secure environment in which to pursue their own destinies, would simply not be acceptable,” he reiterated.
The informal ministerial gathering and consultations aimed at facilitating agreement in areas where divergent opinions were holding back consensus.
“We see more convergence than divergence,” said Nkoana-Mashabane, adding that she hoped for various groupings to interact more on the issue of climate change negotiations.
“We are confident that parties which were present here [in Pretoria] will carry with them views that are convergent, and during the next formal session in Panama, will turn those convergent views into draft negotiating texts for Durban,” she concluded.