Civil society lanyards proudly touting this quote by Nelson Mandela was a good choice by CAN and the perfect fit for Durban. Its timeliness resonates with many a delegate at the climate negotiations here at COP17. Indeed the promise of optimism and hope it gives must surely permeate the negotiations and secure for our planet what Mandela proved is possible despite the trials and tribulations on the path to achievement. Even though we despair at the slow pace of the negotiations, we will continue to persevere in the spirit of this silent reminder until the seemingly impossible is accomplished.
This week, more than 25,000 delegates from over 190 countries are gathered here in the beautiful city of Durban, South Africa to progress talks on finalizing the climate deal and to take us closer to a fair, ambitious, and binding global deal. With the letdown of COP15 in Copenhagen, no one expected Cancun to score a redeeming package to ensure continuity in the process. But we know that Cancun was just the next step of a process, which needs to be finalized by this meeting. Against this backdrop, Durban will be dominated by three major issues: the Kyoto commitments, financial matters, and the legal mandate for ongoing discussions. More than ever, we need a lot of optimism to move ahead and to make good progress.
Now, it is the time to take a bold step on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that was adopted in 1997 with the aim of stabilizing green house gas emission in the atmosphere and holding developed countries accountable with binding targets. The first commitment period (2009 – 2012) ends this year, therefore, a decision must come out of this meeting. Major parties to the KP, including Japan, Russia, and Canada, have already signaled that they will not take on a second commitment because China and the United States—the world’s top two polluters that are not included in it. The European Union (EU) is prepared to sign up for a second round, but it insists that major developing countries, whose emissions are surging as their economies grow, must embrace and follow through on real commitments. Least developed Countries (LDCs), which includes Nepal, are strongly arguing for the KP to be strengthened and to raise the commitments of developed countries.
The Durban COP will also be judged on whether the wealthy nations of the world will make good on their financial commitments to developing countries adaptation to climate change. It was decided in Cancun to set up an umbrella Green Climate Fund (GCF) with thematic windows to address the varying needs of countries to deal with climate change. A Transitional Committee (TC) that was established to design the fund has come up with its report, but the situation does not seem to favor the hard work of the committee.
Since Bali (Indonesia, 2007), the climate discourse has shaped the two track approaches, which are the KP track and the Bali mandate track. The Bali Road-map provides the building blocks of Adaptation, Mitigation, Finance, and Technology Development ,which are briefly covered in the Cancun Agreements. But there are many other leftover issues mandated to be finalized by the Durban COP. Some have linkages to the issues being discussed in the KP. There is a stronger voice all around to continue the KP even though it seems quite difficult to continue with two parallel processes forever. The EU’s preference is to negotiate “a single global and comprehensive legally binding instrument,” including all emitters; although it would accept an “interim” solution whereby major emerging countries would accept a “road map” and timetable for treaty commitments.
Durban will also be judged by the decisions on Adaptation Framework and Technology mechanism i.e. Climate Technology Center (CTC) and diverse views on National Adaptation plan (NAP).
Let me finish with another quote from Nelson Mandela that I hope will encourage us all to be optimistic while moving forward. He said, “There were many dark moments when faith in humanity was sorely tested, but we should not and could not give up to despair.” On the wisdom of these words, we must secure a mandate for working towards a strong legally binding agreement and for the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol – the only international agreement to cut emissions – if we are to avoid an unfolding disaster.