8 December 2011
With less than 24 hours to go before the end of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 17) in Durban, negotiators are working around the clock to reach a deal that will signal some real progress in the planet’s response to climate change.
It’s understood that progress has been made on several other issues, including the structure of the Green Climate Fund, with an agreement imminent.
Kyoto stumbling block
But the main issue that negotiators are struggling to find one other on is whether industrial countries will extend their commitments to further reduce carbon emissions after their current commitments expire under the Kyoto Protocol at the end of next year.
Developed economies such as Japan, Canada and Russia have sent the strongest signals yet that they will not be part of the new commitment post-2012.
Indications are that most of the 37 rich countries who signed the treaty in 1997 to cut their emissions by 5 percent also will not be signing, although the European Union has said it supported a new commitment period, albeit with conditions.
The EU also wants assurances that the world’s biggest emitters, including China, the US and emerging giants India and Brazil, will also sign up for the Protocol.
Developing nations know that the Kyoto Protocol remains key to the convention as it is the only form of legally binding agreement aimed at cutting the greenhouse gas emissions scientists blame for the world’s rising sea levels, drought and crop failures.
It remains the hope of poor nations that they can also be able to grow their economies without having to bear the brunt of historic emissions largely attributed to developed countries.
Africa ‘willing to do its share’
“We have been saying to the developed countries that as Africa and other developing countries, we are willing to do our share – provided that we move with some finance guarantees to meet our mitigation needs,” said African group lead negotiator Tosi Mpanu Mpanu.
“We also need assurances that these countries will continue to cut their emissions which is what we get from the Kyoto Protocol.”
He said developing nations would not be agreeing to any “politically agreed” arrangement with no legal form.
“We have many legal minds in Africa, and our task here is to make sure we keep the one-billion Africans safe, so when we go to a second commitment it must be legally binding, not politically driven.”
The opening of the high level segment of COP 17 conference was met with desperate pleas this week from leaders urging negotiators to come up with a workable solution to the issue of climate change, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warning the globe was in danger.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of our planet is at stake. Science is clear – we are at a point of no return,” Ban said.
President Jacob Zuma made an example of droughts in Africa, which he blamed for wars and famine on the continent.