Africa, small developing island States and least developed countries maintained the “moral high ground” during the recent seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP 17) that helped to create and sustain “pressure” on key issues, including the activation of the Green Climate Fund, South Africa’s negotiators argued on Monday.
However, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said at a press briefing in Pretoria that, while African positions had been strongly expressed, especially in the adaptation committees and on the technology mechanism, more needed to be done in the area of mitigation.
Acknowledging loopholes in certain COP 17 outcomes and issues, South Africa’s chief negotiator Alf Wills also remained ardent in his opposition to the view that the climate negotiations had failed. “We have closed the gap on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the outcomes indicate that urgent and meaningful action is needed now,” he said.
Many environmental groups expressed disappointment at the lack of progress, with the World Wide Fund for Nature arguing that government showed an “alarming inability to come to grips with the challenge of climate change”. The organisation added that it was “unacceptable” that governments “got practically nothing done” during two weeks of negotiation.
Others were even more strident, with Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo arguing that government listened to carbon-intensive polluting corporations instead of to the people. “Right now the global climate regime amounts to nothing more than a voluntary deal,” he said, adding that the exclusion of a clause making a future deal “legally binding” was a “loophole” that could be exploited with disastrous consequences.
The South African government acknowledged the fact that the US had not joined the Kyoto Protocol and that not all developed countries were willing to place their commitments under the protocol. “To address this gap, we have established a process to increase the transparency of the mitigation efforts of both developed and developing countries,” Molewa said.
To ensure the full participation of those developed countries that have indicated that they will not enter into a second-commitment period, the commitments were balanced with a mechanism to capture, under the Convention, the economy-wide emission reduction targets of those developed countries and subject them to international assessment and reporting transparency and accountability procedure.
But it was also accepted that even if the most ambitious current emission targets are met, emissions would still exceed what the science suggested was needed to curb the climate change threat.
“The question that we face is how best to address this gap recognising that it is more that just an ‘ambition gap’, it is also an implementation, financial, technology, capacity and legal gap,” Molewa said.
But she added that any attempt in Durban to force countries to do more than they were willing to do in the midst of the prevailing social, developmental, economic and political challenges, would have resulted in ‘no deal’.
“The outcome of Durban is a historical achievement and will substantially advance the global climate agenda,” Molewa concluded.