Tough decision time on cards for COP17
Key resolutions expected in rousing finale
THE FIRST act in this year’s performance of what’s been described as a “travelling circus” – the annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – comes to an informal close in Durban today.
This is the end of the first week of negotiations by officials and delegations from 194 nations.
After a brief respite tomorrow – although not for many of the “stagehands”, aka officials and negotiating teams, who will still be poring over hundreds of pages of draft texts and documents – the second and final five-day act starts in earnest on Monday.
This is when 10 heads of state, two princes and at least 130 ministers begin arriving for the high-level segment of COP17 that opens at 3pm on Tuesday, ending some time on Friday night or even in the early hours of next Saturday. They will be expected to take key political decisions, based on a number of draft agreements or proposals that have been painstakingly forged and crafted by their negotiating teams.
The “ringmaster”, or more formally the COP17 president, is South Africa’s International Relations and Co- operation Minister, Maite NkoanaMashabane. She will have to crack her whip in earnest in an attempt to bring the show with its disparate and sometimes illdisciplined troupes to what is hoped will be a rousing finale.
There are a number of agreements to be concluded this coming week, including three critical decisions:
The future of the Kyoto Protocol and its second commitment period due to start in 2013, particularly after threats by Russia, Japan and Canada not to sign up for this second period; Canada may withdraw completely.
When to start, and conclude, future negotiations for a new climate agreement that will set binding legal targets for all nations, including the US which is not part of Kyoto, and other big greenhouse gas emitters such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa, which are “developing” countries under the protocol and therefore not legally bound to reduce emissions.
Approving a draft management plan to bring into full operation the Green Climate Fund, which should reach $100 billion a year by 2020 to assist financially developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Convention executive secretary Christiana Figueres told a media briefing yesterday that a “very rough, not perfect” draft text for how to achieve a new comprehensive climate agreement had been completed, and would be studied by negotiating teams over the weekend before the politicians’ arrival.
Also, “more very good work” had been done around the Kyoto Protocol, based on clarification about the “how” of a proposal for a second commitment period as proposed by the EU, Figueres said.
The head of South Africa’s delegation, Environment Minister Edna Molewa, said she was confident that negotiations were on track.
“I assure you, what we hear coming out regarding what people are calling the potential breakdown of negotiations around the Green Climate Fund, we are very, very, very far away from even thinking about that breakdown.”
Earlier, an upbeat President Jacob Zuma, at the Local Government and Cities Convention COP17 side event in Durban, said talks at COP17 were “proceeding well”.
Non- government groups and civil society generally are not nearly as optimistic about next week’s outcomes as Zuma and Molewa, and have been calling for sustained pressure on political decisionmakers.
That pressure includes the Global Day of Action today, when thousands of people from groups like civil society, organised labour and faith- based organisations, along with artists, musicians, peasant farmers from across the continent and hundreds of women from rural communities in South Africa, are planning a peaceful march through Durban.
ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Environmental activists from the Sierra Club, the US’S oldest and largest environmental club, show their disapproval of big corporates’ anti-environmental policies by sticking their heads into the sand during a COP17 protest in Durban yesterday. Some wearing masks, their heads disappeared into holes in the beach. They wore the flags of nations they accused of failing to effectively address climate change issues.