Durban conference delivers a historical breakthrough in Climate Change talks

COP17/CMP7 – The Durban Platform

After months of preparation and a marathon two weeks of negotiations that ended in the early morning hours of 11 December 2011, the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference or COP17/CMP7 came to an end at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.

Parties have delivered a breakthrough on the future of the international community’s response to climate change, whilst recognizing the urgent need to raise their collective level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

The Parties thanked the COP17/CMP7 President, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, for her leadership in guiding the conference to produce a positive outcome.
 
Durban expectations

There were two main tasks that the UN wanted the conference to accomplish. One related to building the institutions that would help support the developing countries response to climate change.

The second pressing task for governments was to answer the question of how they would move forward together to achieve their agreed goal to limit the average global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius, and how to review progress towards that goal between 2013 and 2015.

 A decision on the future of the Kyoto Protocol was also a central part of the Durban outcomes. The Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding treaty the world presently has to combat climate change, and it is important that governments safeguard what they had worked on so long to agree and develop, and what has proven effective.

The process

During the first week of the Conference negotiators worked on the technical aspect of the negotiations. The officials were joined by no fewer than 12 Heads of State and Government, as well as 130 ministers, during the High-Level Segment which started on 6 December 2011.

At the opening of the COP17/CMP High-level Segment, President Jacob Zuma said: “We are agreed that this global challenge requires a global solution. However, different positions still prevail on some critical points. It is important that there is common ground on the elements that will remain critical in reaching any agreement. These are multilateralism, environmental integrity, common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities, equity, and honouring of all international commitments and undertakings made in the climate change process.”

The outcomes in Durban

Speaking at 5:10am at the conclusion of the Conference, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane thanked all Parties for their dedication, hard work and for the spirit of Ubuntu and compromise that prevailed during the Conference.

“I applaud you for what you have been able to accomplish here in Durban. You were prepared to show the required political will to move this process forward. It is without any doubt in my mind that we have ‘worked together to save tomorrow, today!’”. The Minister said the decisions that had been taken were “truly historical”.

Decisions reached at COP17/CMP7

Governments decided to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, but not later than 2015. Work will begin on this immediately under a new group called the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

Governments, including 35 industrialised countries, agreed to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from 01 January 2013. To achieve rapid clarity, Parties to this second period will turn their economy-wide targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives and submit them for review by 01 May 2012. This is highly significant because the Kyoto Protocol’s accounting rules, mechanisms and markets all remain in action as effective tools to leverage global climate action and as models to inform future agreements.

A significantly advanced framework for the reporting of emission reductions for both developed and developing countries was also agreed, taking into consideration the common but differentiated responsibilities of different countries.
 
In addition to charting the way forward on reducing greenhouse gases in the global context, governments agreed to the full implementation of the package to support developing nations, agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico (COP16/CMP6). This means that urgent support for the developing world, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, will also be launched on time.

The package includes the Green Climate Fund, an Adaptation Committee designed to improve the coordination of adaptation actions on a global scale, and a Technology Mechanism, which are to become fully operational in 2012.

Whilst pledging to make progress in a number of areas, governments acknowledged the urgent concern that the current sum of pledges to cut emissions both from developed and developing countries was not high enough to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. They therefore decided that the UN Climate Change process shall increase ambition to act and will be led by the climate science in the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report and the global Review from 2013-2015. 

Key decisions:

Green Climate Fund

• Countries have already started to pledge to contribute to start-up costs of the fund, meaning it can be made ready in 2012, and at the same time     can help developing countries get ready to access the fund, boosting their efforts to establish their own clean energy futures and adapt to existing climate change.
• A Standing Committee is to keep an overview of climate finance in the context of the UNFCCC and to assist the Conference of the Parties. It will comprise 20 members, represented equally between the developed and developing world.
• A focussed work programme on long-term finance was agreed, which will contribute to the scaling up of climate change finance going forward and will analyse options for the mobilisation of resources from a variety of sources.

Adaptation

• The Adaptation Committee, composed of 16 members, will report to the COP on its efforts to improve the coordination of adaptation actions at a global scale.
• The adaptive capacities above all of the poorest and most vulnerable countries are to be strengthened. National Adaptation Plans will allow developing countries to assess and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
• The most vulnerable are to receive better protection against loss and damage caused by extreme weather events related to climate change.

Technology

• The Technology Mechanism will become fully operational in 2012.
•  The full terms of reference for the operational arm of the Mechanism - the Climate Technology Centre and Network - are agreed, along with a clear procedure to select the host. The UNFCCC secretariat will issue a call for proposals for hosts on 16 January 2012.

Support of developing country action

• Governments agreed a registry to record developing country mitigation actions that seek financial support and to match these with support. The registry will be a flexible, dynamic, web-based platform.

Other key decisions

• A forum and work programme on unintended consequences of climate change actions and policies were established.
• Under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, governments adopted procedures to allow carbon-capture and storage projects. These guidelines will be reviewed every five years to ensure environmental integrity.
• Governments agreed to develop a new market-based mechanism to assist developed countries in meeting part of their targets or commitments under the Convention. Details of this will be taken forward in 2012.

ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF COP17/CMP7

For further information, please contact Mr Clayson Monyela on 082 884 5974
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