13 December 2011
The outcome of the Durban climate summit is a historic achievement that will go a long way towards furthering the global climate agenda, says the head of the South Africa’s COP 17 delegation, Edna Molewa.
Speaking a few days after Sunday’s conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, Molewa – South Africa’s minister of water and environmental affairs – described the final outcome as “precedent setting,” adding that it ranked with the 1997 conference at which the Kyoto Protocol was adopted.
A comprehensive package agreement, the “Durban Platform”, was finally reached in the dying hours of the conference on Sunday morning.
Molewa said the agreement “sets a new long-term pathway for the development of a fair, ambitious and legally binding future multi-lateral and rules-based global climate change system, which can balance climate and development imperatives.”
The agreement also ensures the fair participation of all countries in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now and in the future.
‘New willingness to negotiate’
The Durban climate summit was characterised by a new willingness by parties to move beyond entrenched negotiating positions.
COP 17 also ensured the survival of the Kyoto Protocol through the decision to adopt the second commitment period, capturing legally binding commitments of the developed countries beyond the first commitment period expiration in 2012.
“Under the convention, we anchored emission reduction targets for developed countries that are not willing to be part of the Kyoto second commitment period, as well as emission mitigation actions of developing countries, and were able to elaborate the transparency and accountability framework for both developed and developing countries,” Molewa said.
“Crucially, we have been able to preserve the multilateral rules-based system underpinning the mitigation regime by agreeing on a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, through an agreement to amend the Protocol, setting up a five-year second commitment period from 2013 to 2018.”
It was noted that the US had not joined the Kyoto Protocol, and not all developed countries were prepared to place their commitments under the Protocol.
Transparency of mitigation efforts
To address this gap, a process to increase transparency of mitigation efforts was established.
“In the case of developed countries, we will review and assess their economy-wide emission reduction targets and commitments. In the case of developing countries, we will increase the transparency of their nationally appropriate mitigation actions.”
With regards to finance, Molewa noted that there was an agreement on the detailed design of the Green Climate Fund.
Africa’s priority of adapting to the impacts of climate change was also firmly placed on the global agenda.
The Durban agreement put into operation a number of international mechanisms to enable and support mitigation and adaption efforts of developing countries, particularly efforts needed in the least developed, African and small island countries.
Common vision for global cooperation
Looking to the future, Molewa said COP 17 reaffirmed a common vision for global cooperation on climate change to hold the increase in the global average temperature below two degrees or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Molewa said forcing countries to do more than they were willing or able to was a recipe for failure, adding that the solution was to build a system that gradually transitioned to a low-carbon future and simultaneously created jobs, reduced poverty and improved quality of life.
“Therefore, under the Convention, agreement was reached on the Durban Platform, which initiates negotiations next year, leading to a legal instrument, protocol or agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all countries that will be adopted by 2015 and be fully operational no later than 2020.”