- Get Involved
- Understanding CCS
- About the Institute
You wouldn’t think that COP 17 is coming to a close!
You wouldn’t think that COP 17 is coming to a close with the level of activity in the halls and even the carparks of the convention centre in Durban. The last few days are absolutely critical for the agreements that all the parties have been working on for the previous weeks.
In the lead-up to COP and throughout the negotiations the Institute has been writing blogs, but we haven’t been the only ones. Below are a couple blogs that I thought were particularly insightful.
Andrew Steer of the World Bank asked the question ‘Will Durban deliver’ in his blog. I read this blog before coming to Durban and found it quite refreshing as he actually had some concrete positive steps that he thinks could be achieved in Durban. With the expectations probably the lowest that they have been before any COP, Steer explains that actually Durban has quite a few practical measures that can be adopted and agreed. In addition to the practical measures that he sets out, he also brings up the two white elephants in the room that need to be discussed: the Green Climate Fund and the Post 2012 arrangements. Both of these huge issues have been discussed throughout the two weeks, but as of yet (not unsurprisingly) there hasn’t been any major development on either.
Steer’s last point doesn’t get mentioned very much in the general media around the COP process, he said: "Perhaps the greatest hope comes from the thousands at COP 17 who won’t be negotiating UNFCCC text. These are the private sector, civil society, researchers and international organizations. Their job is to move forward the world of action, sharing experiences and analysis, launching new programs, and doing deals."
Steer and others should be pleased this year, as the observers of the process actually played a greater and more involved role in Durban than any COP previously.
Robert Stavins of the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, and Chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Faculty Group also wrote his blog on the day the Durban talks began. Not surprisingly, his piece is more academic in nature, but he is also takes a more critical look at the whole process.
He starts the discussion by making the remark that in climate change policy one must remember this is a marathon not a sprint (a similar message that we received at a South Africa event last week) and then focused on four key areas that he believes need to be kept in perspective when talking about the UNFCCC:
- the focus of scientists (and policy makers) should be on stabilizing concentrations at acceptable levels by 2050 and beyond;
- the cost-effective path for stabilizing concentrations involves a gradual ramp-up in target severity;
- massive technological change is the key to the needed transition from reliance on carbon-intensive fossil fuels to more climate-friendly energy sources; and
- the creation of long-lasting international institutions is central to addressing this global challenge.
Stavin then goes into more detail around the talks specifically in Durban offers four ways to help the ‘Durban Negotiators Keep their Eyes on the Prize’. While Stavin offers some practical advice like embracing parallel climate tracks, consolidating text and making progress on narrow agreements - it is really the future of the Kyoto protocol which he focuses on. The fact that the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period runs from 2008 through 2012, means a decision needs to be reached on a possible second (post-2012) commitment period for the Protocol and The future of the CDM relies on it.
Based on the positive discussions that have been taking place, it seems that some real progress has been made on the smaller narrow agreements and we will be able to send the two weeks on a more hopeful note than Stavin’s, who concludes by stating if the contentious issue of a possible second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol dominates the Durban talks then "despite the weather, Durban may come to resemble Copenhagen more than Cancun."
To read Stavin's full blog please click here.
Other organisations have also been following the negotiations and the National Resources Defense Council's Jake Schmidt on December 4 wrote a good summary of where the negotiations stood by the end of week 1. He also talked about the state of play of the Kyoto Protocol.
While there were no ‘breakthroughs’ in the first week, none were actually expected, instead Schmidt alludes to the positions some of the key negotiating blocks are taking: such as the small island states, least developed countries, the European Union, US, China and India.
By giving an overview of each of the positions that seem to be forming, one is able to get a sense of where the national interests are in these negotiations. It is not surprising that the developing countries are pushing hard for an agreement to move to a legally binding commitment in a defined timeframe; nor is at surprise that US has shown no sign of a shift in position. It is interesting to note that while the EU has continued to keep the position that it entered into the talks with, which is it will only commit to a second round of targets under the Kyoto Protocol if there is a clear mandate to negotiate a legally binding target in the very near future.
Schmidt concludes that no one wins if there is stalemate. I would remind countries that these discussions should not be set in the context of winners and losers, rather this is the future of the planet we are discussing and we are all in this game together whether we like it or not.
If you are interested in the day-by-day synopsis of how the talks are going, I would recommend looking at Schmidt’s blog.