11th hour breakthrough in Durban climate talks

Posted on 12 Dec 2011 by The Manufacturer

Helen Drury, senior climate and environment policy advisor at EEF recounts the latest news from the UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

On Friday, it still looked like the only progress at Durban would be on the CDM mechanisms and the Green Climate Fund.  However, Connie Hedegaard, the Commission Climate Minister and previously one of the youngest politicians to enter parliament in Denmark, has secured a landmark victory at the 11th hour.

Even at the end of last week, China and India were firmly standing their ground to say that they should not be legally bound to reduce their emissions.  Hedegaard, equally stood her ground arguing that the definition of these countries as developing nations has changed significantly since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

The negotiations boiled down to a head to head with Hedegaard and the Chinese and Indian Ministers on Sunday morning.  Hedegaard calling for a deal whilst the Indian Minister countering that India would not sign up to a deal without knowing the details and what she described as ‘writing a blank cheque’ and accused developed nations of trying to shift the blame to developing countries.

It finally came down to agreeing text on the legality of the document, India insisting on it being ‘legally binding’; finally though, after a two hour huddle, ‘an agreed outcome with legal force’ was agreed by all.

So what has been agreed?  The documents are not yet published, and after such intensive discussions we expect them to be available tomorrow.  However, we do know that Durban ended with a commitment by all countries to accept binding emission cuts by 2020. As part of the package of measures agreed, a new climate fund will be set up, carbon markets will be expanded and countries will be able to earn money by protecting forests.

As part of this deal, Europe has signed up to a second commitment period under Kyoto, however, without Japan, Russia and Canada, and of course the US, who were never part of the discussions.  What this means is unclear, but we suspect for Europe it means a move to -30% by 2020.

As we await the announcement of what targets countries will implement, the question about whether what has been agreed in Durban is enough to match the science to keep the world below 2C rise in temperature still hangs in the air.