Key outcomes of COP17 in Durban:
1) Changing global political dynamics
- Durban caused a further realignment of countries on the Climate Change issue:
- The EU’s offered to enter into a 2nd Kyoto Commitment period provided there is agreement to work towards a new deal which binds all countries. This found strong support from African Countries and the Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS).
- The US adopted a low profile at Durban given the constraints of its domestic politics. It was, however, able to agree to the EU proposal given (a) its long timeline (agreement by 2015 for implementation by 2020) and (b) its meeting the longstanding US demand for ‘symmetry’ with equally binding commitments on all countries.
- This left China and India as the obstacles to a deal. China, with its strong domestic action to curtail GHG emissions was able to agree to the deal relatively easily. India also eventually agreed but only after the conference ran 30 hours past its scheduled finish and the addition of wording to dilute the legal significance of the future deal.
The end result was an agreement to create a second Kyoto commitment period and the ‘Durban Platform for Enhanced Action’ which will replace the ‘Bali Roadmap’ process.
- Future COPs are likely to see further development of these political dynamics with the EU/Africa/AOSIS alliance pushing the US, China and India for stronger action. Three key uncertainties are:
- EU: Will the EU hold together on climate change issues given the financial strains it is facing.
- US politics: If the 2012 elections result in a US Administration and/or Congress which resists action on climate change then the US will slow down progress and find itself increasingly isolated. If the elections results in an Administration and Congress which favours action then the UNFCCC process could accelerate significantly.
- When will India embrace low carbon development rather than arguing that it should not be constrained until it reaches the world’s per capita average GHG emissions? The challenge is for developed countries to help India achieve low carbon development rather than following the mistaken high carbon development they have taken. (NB: All developing countries face this issue but India is key given (a) its size; (b) China is already planning for low carbon development; and, (c) other developing countries will be easier to persuade if India and China take the lead.)
2) Operationalising the Cancun Agreements.
Durban agreed much of the detail for operationalising the following:
- Rules for determining reference levels for forestry (REDD).
- Biennial GHG emission reports by countries to the UNFCCC. There are guidelines on reporting, for International Assessment and Review and for setting up a Registry to hold information reported.
- The Adaptation Committee for the Cancun Adaptation Framework
- The Standing Committee [on Finance] and The Green Climate Fund’s governing instrument
- The Technology Mechanism comprising the Technology Executive Committee, the Climate Technology Centre and its Network.
These arrangements are contained in 34 Durban ‘Decision’ documents including 19 annexes and totalling 185 pages Download UNFCCC COP17 Durban outcome summary. It is tedious to separate decisions of substance from administrative detail and the insubstantial continuation of past initiatives which duplicate current initiatives. At some stage there needs to be a ‘clean up’ but it is difficult to get the 190+ countries to unanimously agree to do this.
3) Work programmes were mandated for areas where Durban didn’t achieve agreement. The most important of these are:
- How to increase the level of ambition that countries show for reducing GHG emissions.
- How to raise (mobilize) money for the Green Climate Fund.
- How to fund REDD+
- Mechanisms for spending the Green Climate Fund wisely.
- Treatment of agriculture.
COP17 Durban Outcome Poster Download COP17 Outcome Poster
This poster attempts provide a quick introduction to the outcome of Durban by putting the most significant issues on one page. It highlights:
Green: Institutions being formed under the convention.
Yellow: Action designated for future COPs.
Blue: Topics on which accredited observers are invited to submit views.
Overall verdict on COP17 Durban
It is a grave concern, as Durban’s ‘decisions’ note, that 2020 GHG mitigation pledges fall far short of emission pathways likely to hold temperature increases below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Geopolitics prevented Durban from (a) improving pledges to reduce GHG emissions; and,
(b) mobilizing money for the Green Climate Fund. Instead Durban focused on and achieved (a) good progress on operationalising the institutions needed to combat climate change; and, (b) establishing an outline roadmap for all countries committing to reducing GHG emission pathways to levels which science estimates to be safe. The shift in geopolitics which Durban saw and wide range of detailed issues it agreed bodes well for future action on climate. Future progress, however, will depend the politics of major countries.
 Kyoto 2nd commitment period: It is likely to take until 2014 before this comes into legal force. The process required:
- May 2012: participating Annex 1 nations to submit proposed emissions obligations, consistent with the new accounting rules, to be recorded in an amended Annex B.
- Agreement on how to handle he carryover of credits from the 1st commitment period.
- Dec 2012 CMP8 adopt amendments (by a ¾ majority of parties present and voting)
- 2013/4 participating nations to ratify amendments.