|December 12, 2011
Durban Climate Talks End with a New Deal
The COP 17 climate talks in Durban ended on Sunday December 11th, making it the longest COP in the history of the UN climate talks. Delegates worked into the wee hours of Sunday to broker a deal that renewed the Kyoto Protocol and set into motion a Durban Roadmap. The Durban Roadmap for the first time in the history of the UNFCCC sets up a process to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced legal instrument to avert climate change; the legal instrument which would come into force by 2020. The “agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties” will require more decisive action in emission reduction from all countries, including emerging economies like China and India. Water and Environmental affairs Minister Molewa of South Africa, hailed the new Durban Roadmap as a significant political achievement and managed to keep the negotiating process alive.
“We realized in Durban that given the current social, developmental, economic and political context, trying to force countries to do more than they are willing and able to contribute is a recipe for the complete failure of the international effort to genuinely address climate crisis and would have resulted in a no deal in Durban, not only killing the Kyoto Protocol but possibly even the UN Convention on climate change itself.”
However, reaction to the deal has been mixed. The New York Times indicates that “conclusion of the meeting was marked by exhaustion and explosions of temper, and the result was muddled and unsatisfying to many.”
Others have indicated that the deal struck in Durban still falls short of the ambitious cuts needed to avert global warming. According to Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the decisions adopted in Durban “fall well short of what is needed to respond adequately to the mounting threat of climate change.” The Durban deal also failed to reach agreement on sources of long-term finance to fill the Green Climate Fund (GCF) thus leaving GCF an ‘empty fund” according to Ilana Solomon of ActionAid. The GCF is set to provide the finances necessary to assist developing and vulnerable countries adapting to climate change and help them move towards a low carbon development pathway. Negotiations on other sources of finance, such a shipping levy on maritime industry, were so contentious that they failed to make it in the final text. Answers to these and many other concerns will be hashed out during the next few years including the months in the run –up to COP 18, which will be held in Qatar in 2012. Countries will for example launch a work plan on enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and explore options on a range of actions to close the current ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation effort by all Parties. However, in the words of the Chinese lead negotiator in Durban: “It is not what is said by countries it is what is done by countries, and many are not realizing their commitments.”
As 2011 draws to a close, Congress is considering adding anti-environmental riders to “must pass” bills such as Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bills and legislation on tax provisions that are expiring at the end of the year. The House leadership is bringing legislation (HR 3630) to the floor tomorrow, Tuesday, to extend the cut in the payroll tax. HR 3630 includes a bill to mandate building of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canada’s tar sands (HR 3548) and another bill to block EPA’s boiler regulations (H.R. 2250). Although EPA just last week released changes to the boiler regulations to accommodate concerns raised by industry, there is a very real possibility that these or other damaging anti-environmental provisions could be included in the final tax bill. On a positive note, EPA is expected to announce final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants that burn coal and oil on Monday, December 19, after two decades of delays.
Susan Tambi Matambo, International Policy Coordinator & Lara Levison, Domestic Policy Director