Source : WWF – 02 December 2011
COP 17 in Durban will be a tipping point in the UN negotiation process on climate change. Government leaders can either build on the progress achieved at COP 16 in Cancun and act to prevent runaway climate change, or they can allow short-term national interests to set us on a path towards a 3° – 4° C warming world. The path our leaders choose will be critical and they need to be reminded that they will be making these choices while on African soil – a continent particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Durban is the last real opportunity for countries to provide certainty on a future climate regime. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. The world’s citizens are waiting for a clear signal about what countries will do in a second commitment period that will help save the planet and its people.
But if the negotiations continue on the same path that they have been on this year, then COP 17 is doomed to fail. So far, countries have not used the positive momentum from the climate negotiations in Cancun to deliver a more ambitious outcome or fulfill even the basic agreements made there. They have not as yet secured a firm basis for a fair, balanced and credible outcome in Durban.
Key amongst the big issues is the future of the Kyoto Protocol. It is currently the only binding international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As such it is critical – yet it expires in one year. The EU has stepped forward to offer to continue it, if others will join. But major developed countries, such as Japan, Russia and Canada refuse to back the EU’s pledge unless developing countries also make commitments.
On their side, developing countries have signaled that agreement on continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is a bottom line for negotiations of a balanced package. But unless developing countries are also willing to signal their readiness to take on legally binding commitments in the future, then it will be very difficult to find a solution to deal with runaway climate change. This stalemate threatens agreements on all of the other issues that urgently await decision at COP 17.
The second big issue is long-term finance, to cut emissions and to pay for urgentlyneeded adaptation to climate impacts. This includes agreements on the management of the UN Green Climate Fund, as well the sources for the $100 billion pledge made by developed countries in Copenhagen. A consensus agreement in the Transitional Committee, which is tasked with setting up the Green Climate Fund, stalled on the objections of two countries. As a result, any one country in Durban can reopen negotiations on the text and unravel the finely balanced compromises achieved by the Transitional Committee.
WWF is concerned about the potential for a breakdown in negotiations in Durban. We raise this not to be alarmist, but to alert leaders that their current approaches mean they may fail to reach a minimally acceptable agreement in Durban – and failure at this point is not a viable option. In addition, we urge the South African COP Presidency to provide leadership and set up a process that will facilitate agreement.
WWF expects COP 17 to achieve two main objectives:
* Ensure the operationalization of the Cancun Agreement
* Increase ambition and lay the basis for a future legally binding agreement