Baby steps at Durban yield negotiating draft

The first week of the 17th UN Climate Conference closed in Durban, South Africa today with a 73-page draft negotiating text, which was issued to conference members for further discussion.

An “amalgamation” of drafts, the document includes suggestions for relevant issues such as finance, technology, cooperation and capacity building. Included in the recommendations are steps to create a $100-billion-per-year Green Fund by 2020 to help developing countries tackle the causes and impacts of global warming.

The text does not address the conference’s entrenching concern: a legally binding agreement regulating carbon emissions by developed and developing countries. Instead, a separate group has been assigned to address the issue, and will report directly to the Conference of Parties.

According to the text, India’s Economic Times observes that “the South African presidency would like the final outcome of the meeting to be a ‘party-driven’ process.

With a stated ambition to serve as a bonding agent for individual group work done at the conference the draft text “provides an overview aimed at enabling delegates to see where there are gaps or lack of balance and to find ways to address these accordingly,” reads the introduction.

A final document will be submitted to the Conference of Parties and the general assembly for review in the coming days.

Another leading concern is the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding agreement to cut carbon emissions which was not signed by the world’s leading emitters, China and the United States (US). While the European Union has voiced support for the agreement, Canada suggested withdrawal at the conference’s start and other countries dug in their heels over signing a second term.

Over the weekend, however, China indicated it would consider a “legally binding” deal to reduce emissions. The decision followed a public rally on December 3.

US National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Richard Harris, reporting from Durban, said Kyoto alternatives do exist.

“For example, it might be possible to reach an agreement to set a global limit for emissions from energy-intensive industries such as steelmaking. Or, if the world agreed to put a price on carbon (not likely at the moment), that would encourage a shift away from carbon dioxide emissions without requiring a treaty that spells out national emissions limits. A gloomier possibility is the world will not act until and unless there’s a catastrophic event that’s clearly triggered by climate change.”

His conclusion echoes the Maldivian delegation’s message, articulated by Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam: “Our survival will be our top priority.”

Upon his departure for the conference, Aslam said the Maldives would lobby for a new international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent a rise in sea level, and would not relent to any country.

“We can’t go on without finding a conclusion to this. The Maldives will lobby for and say whatever we have to say to any country it is that we will not be able to move forward without endorsing this agreement.”

Officials at the ministry had not received sufficient updates from the Durban delegation to comment. Minivan was unable to reach the delegation abroad at time of press.

Meanwhile, former UN climate chief Yvo de Boer told the Associated Press (AP) that although he believes world leaders want an agreement, a failed negotiation process for a climate agreement had been a factor in his decision to leave his post 18 months ago.

“I do not see the negotiating process being able to rise to that challenge, being capable of delivering on that,” he told AP. “I believe the sincerity on the part of world leaders is there, but it’s almost as though they do not have control of the process that’s suppose to take them there.”

Do Boer, who refers to annual 194-nation summit as “a bit of a mouse wheel”, termed the current talks and their predecessors “a log that’s drifted away.” However, he recognises a group fear of leadership.”There is understandably a reluctance to be the first one to jump,” he said.

Meanwhile, the public is urging a plunge. “Occupy Durban”, a movement inspired by the ongoing “Occupy Wallstreet” protest in New York City, has assembled South African and foreign citizens protesting the “conference of polluters” which many claim does not represent the people.

Responding to Canada’s souring relationship with the Kyoto Protocol, indigenous citizens of Canada’s northern territories arrived in Durban “to act as a witness and to bring back the message of what Canada is saying so that we all understand where the Canadian government is at,” one protestor told CBC News Canada.

“We know that as indigenous people we have a lot of knowledge that is relevant to ecosystem, and that knowledge needs to be used when working on climate change adaptation,” said Daniel T’selei, a member of the indigenous youth delegation.


2 thoughts on “Baby steps at Durban yield negotiating draft”

  1. Ho-hum. I as a Maldivian do not care.

    Reasons for my apathy:

    - Maldivian institutions are too weak to make effective use of funds supplied for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

    - Most Maldivians either a) do not understand what all the fuss is about OR b) do not believe that climate change is a pressing issue.

    - More pressing issues face us in the near to mid terms.

  2. The negotiators seem too happy to keep going for international climate conferences to keep negotiating rather than coming to an agreement. This applies to Maldivian negotiators as well.


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