Durban Platform: COP17 ≠ Urgent Action.

“Negotiators have sent a clear message to the world’s hungry: let them eat carbon,”Celine Charveriat: Oxfam.

 The outcome of 16 days of fun in the sun for the politicians and celebs is pretty much what was expected. In case you haven’t heard the news:

  • A commitment was made by all countries to accept binding emission cuts by 2020. Governments now get more time to negotiate emissions cuts ??
  • A new climate fund will be set up
  • Carbon markets will be expanded and countries will be able to earn money by protecting forests.

On the topic of the outcome of COP17 Mr. Ban Ki Moon has stated that the outcome is “essential for stimulating greater action and for raising the level of ambition and the mobilization of resources to respond to the challenges of climate change.” Essentially, we haven’t committed to anything other than committing to binding emissions cuts in 8 years time. In the interim the emission cuts will be debated and agreed upon by the countries by 2015 and then implemented in 2020. What does this mean? It means we do not have binding emissions targets at the moment but we will hopefully have some by 2020 (keep your fingers crossed).

So I guess in a way we should be happy…. maybe even celebrate by popping some organic champers!!

Apparently, COP17 is the commitment that big business needs (it seems that they haven’t noticed all the changes and impacts caused by in climate change, extreme events, resource degradation and scarcity etc) to ensure that they stop green-washing and earnestly start the move towards low (er)-carbon technology and a greener economy.

“Delaying real action till 2020 is a crime of global proportions.” Nnimmo Bassey: Friends of the Earth International

What we need is action not agreements or more discussions in 2015 or words that simply make investors happy. While we fine tune the wording of the agreements and the emissions targets etc we will continue merrily along the path towards higher emissions, warming and increased climate risk and vulnerability. Has any thought been given to the impact of delaying action until 2020?

  • What impact does this have on the vulnerable populations in Africa, the small island states and coastal areas?
  • What does waiting until 2020 mean for the increasing global temperature? As it is current pledges for emissions reductions are not consistent with the 2C target required and the science is not matching the action, thus we are not effectively transitioning towards the low carbon path that we should/ need to be on by 2020.
  • The financial and social cost of climate change impacts is already growing… by waiting until 2020 we are just compounding the costs and the impacts? Or are we making sure that we implement the correct actions just a little too late?
  • In addition to this, according to Damian Carrington we also have “investors that are too nervous to put money into the old economy, yet too uncertain of the low-carbon commitment of politicians to put their money into the new economy.” So why the dependence on carbon markets that are directly linked to the old economy?

“The chance of averting catastrophic climate change is slipping through our hands with every passing year that nations fail to agree on a rescue plan for the planet.” Kumi Naido: Greenpeace International director  

 “The current pledges from countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions were not enough to hold global temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which scientists say climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible. Bob Ward: Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics

In conclusion; COP17 and the lack of action and commitment from politicians, eco-celebs and green-washers merely highlights the need for individual and community commitment and action to reduce emissions, environmental degradation and climate change vulnerability and risks. We cannot wait for the politicians, investors and big business to debate argue and fine tune the details of what needs to be done while flying around and attending more and more talk sessions that result in no tangible action.

Additional reading FYI:

Durban climate deal struck after tense all-night session

COP17: Decision

Ban welcomes climate change deal reached at UN conference in Durban 

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BRICS & COP17

BRICS

Despite all being emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and often being referred to in the same discussion, are all approaching the summit with different goals. This highlights the fact that the countries should not all be viewed through the same climate change lens and that each country has its own development context, agenda and goals that must be considered. For example:

The Indian GDP per capita is almost identical to that of Africa’s. No one is expecting all of Africa to match China’s commitments. Perhaps if India negotiated in 30 discrete blocks things would be different.

“You can’t compare China and India,” says Kartikeya Singh, CIERP Junior Associate at the Fletcher School who is also serving as an advisor to government delegations in Durban. “It’s convenient to compare them side-by-side because of their mammoth populations but the reality from an energy and emissions perspective, is quite different. They have fast growing economies too and all of these indicators make people want to put them together in a club.”

(www.rtcc.org)

The BRICS countries each have their own agendas and the following has emerged from the negotiations to date:

Brazil has stated that it is not placing any conditions on committing itself to an internationally legally binding instrument to reduce carbon emissions as long as such a treaty helped the fight against climate change based on scientific studies. Brazil is hoping for the following:

  1. The adoption of a second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol before the end of COP17 summit.
  2. A fully functional Green Climate Fund, which includes short-term and long-term financing mechanisms to assist developing nations to adapt to climate change.

Russia, a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has blankly refused to consider a second commitment period.

India has emerged as the leading opponent to a binding treaty at COP 17. India is the world’s third largest carbon emitter, yet has one of the smallest one of the smallest per-capita-carbon footprints in the world, and  has made it clear that it is choosing economic growth over efforts to reduce emissions. In addition India has joined with other emerging economies in advocating a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. Under this treaty, developing nations like India and China have no obligations to make cuts to emissions and all the onus is put on Western industrialized countries.

China, the worlds biggest greenhouse gas emitter has stated that it is open to signing a formal treaty restricting emissions after 2020. Chinas conditions arise from China’s need for rapid economic growth to counter the persistent poverty of millions of its citizens. This need for rapid economic growth is the underlying reason for China’s view that it cannot be bound by the same emissions standards as advanced industrialized nations. Chinas agreement to the signing of a treaty is subject to the following conditions;

  1. New carbon-cutting pledges by rich nations in the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol;
  2. The fast launch of the Green Climate Fund agreed on in Cancun under a supervisory regime;
  3. Implementing the consensus of adaptation;
  4. Technology transfer, transparency, capability building
  5. Other points agreed upon in the former conferences as well as appraising developed countries’ commitment during the first period of the Kyoto Protocol.

South Africa, like China, has shown interest in the EU Roadmap and has agreed to binding agreements with conditionality’s that are informed by the need for climate change adaptation financing, technology transfer and capacity building.

 

Extra Reading and references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRICS

http://www.ips.org/TV/cop17/basics-make-small-steps-towards-emission-reduction-deal/#more-1329

http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/a552ec80493cd9268f8f9f1d15685aa2/Brazil-optimistic-COP-17-could-be-successful-20111129

http://www.rtcc.org/policy/comment-is-india-the-new-china/

http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-12-08-deconstructing-the-african-position-at-cop17