From COP17 to COP18: Moving Forward in the Climate Change Negotiations
From 28 November to 09 December 2011, South Africa played host to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. While there have been voices critical of the outcome, South Africa, under the leadership of Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, managed to gavel through an agreement on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, 36 hours after the meeting had officially concluded. This was not just the result of two weeks of strenuous talks in Durban, but a sustained engagement with stakeholders on process and substance prior to the negotiations, as well as coordination with former Chairs Mexico and Denmark respectively.
Throughout 2012 South Africa will continue to hold the Presidency of the Conference of the Parties (COP) until COP18, when it will be formally handed over to Qatar. During this period Pretoria will be expected to continue its leadership role in mobilizing for a binding agreement by 2015, which would come into effect in 2020, as well as driving forward the operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). In addition to playing a leading role as president of the COP, South Africa will also need to support the incoming President, particularly in addressing outstanding political questions dividing parties in reaching an agreement.
Outcomes and implications from COP17, Durban November 28 – December 09 2011:
Durban was faced with a number of outstanding issues carried over from the Cancun negotiations including the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Technology Mechanism, as well questions of equity and access to the remaining carbon space. The multilateral process was, however, supported through the Mexican government’s considerable attention to consultation and inclusivity of all parties in the negotiations.
The Durban negotiations saw progress in terms of maintaining engagement by all parties in the multilateral process, despite some criticism on the small group discussion in the late stages of the negotiations, considered the equivalent of the Green Rooms of the WTO.
· A commitment by all countries to accept binding emission cuts by 2020.
· The creation of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action – which includes an agreement to establish an adaptation Committee and a process that will lead to the establishment of a Climate Technology Centre and Network.
· Discussions on the operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund and the expansion of the carbon markets.
· The Technology Mechanism would be fully operational in 2012.
· Continuation of the Kyoto Protocol (without Canada, Japan and Russia). A five year 2nd commitment period from 2013-2018 was set.
· Development of an Adaptation Committee.
Key issues still outstanding:
· Ambition in terms of emission cuts. Current pledges are not sufficient to reach what has been set out by science.
· Questions of sources of funding, management and access to the Green Climate Fund.
· Questions of equity and the future development of Developing states.
· Converting emission pledges into legally binding Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Objectives.
· Durban Platform - negotiations on a legal instrument accepted by all countries that will be adopted by 2015 and operational by 2020.
Moving Forward: From Bonn to Qatar 2012
As negotiators head towards the mid-year discussion in Bonn (May 2012) and the end of the year UNFCCC talks in Qatar, South Africa will continue to contend with issues of both substance and process. Important in moving towards an international agreement will be:
· Sustaining Momentum
In the first instance South Africa, as current president of the COP, will need to give attention to sustaining momentum within the negotiations following the frenetic talks in Durban. South Africa managed to support the continuation of the multilateral process, but there is still considerable tension between parties that requires strategic engagement. Nevertheless, while there is continued geo-political division at the broader level between Developed and Developing countries, the Durban talks also demonstrate that this divide is not always clear cut, becoming increasingly issue dependent. For instance countries like India, China, Brazil, the US, UAE, Indonesia and South Korea sought to oppose an EU proposal that would see the introduction of legally binding targets for all states by 2015. In order to sustain momentum and the urgency in dealing with climate change there needs to be buy-in by all parties including both state and non-state actors (transparency and inclusivity).
· Taking the Durban outcomes forward
Secondly, there will need to be clarity on the form of the additional negotiation track - the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. To date the Agenda for Bonn indicates that this meeting will be used to finalize organizational processes including the election of officers, adoption of the agenda, planning and organization of work in accordance with decision 1/CP.17. Discussions will also need to continue on the key outcomes from Durban, including the operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund and the future of the Kyoto Protocol (details on the Second Commitment Period). These talks should begin addressing the details of the Durban outcomes, an important part in moving towards implementation in meeting the 2015 goal. Nevertheless, technical complexities and political divisions may see the process in moving towards implementation remaining sluggish. Should Bonn not produce the necessary drive forward, it may necessitate an additional meeting ahead of Qatar, such as the October 2011 Climate Change Conference in Panama ahead of Durban and the Tianjin Climate Change Conference (October 2010) ahead of Cancun.
· Trilateral Cooperation
Thirdly a key consideration in supporting negotiations is trilateral coordination between South Africa as current Chair, Mexico as Chair of COP16, and Qatar as incoming Chair of COP18, which will play an important part in facilitating coherence from one Chair to the next. Synergy between Chairs will help in supporting institutional memory in terms of process and substance.
By: L. Masters. March 2012
Emerging Powers, Africa and
South Africa, Climate Change and
About the Programme
Environmental degradation and the frequency with which the effects of climate change are being felt are increasingly evident. Yet, while attention has been given to the science and economics of climate change, there has been limited engagement on the diplomacy...Read more...
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