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Durban: arduous journey, pleasant result

11 December 2011
Durban: arduous journey, pleasant result

By Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group.

 (2011-12-11 15:37:54)

“The United Nations conference in Durban finally has the results!” a reporter from CCTV called to tell me, and quickly asked if I could comment on the final agreement for the TV station.

Well, today is the 14th day since the Durban negotiations began. The negotiation should have ended last Friday, according to the original plan. However, extension seems to have become the convention of international climate negotiations - delay is inevitable by at least one day. And this year at Durban, there is no exception.

The “Durban package deal” is the final outcome of the Durban negotiations. Reaching the final agreement through difficult and tortuous negotiations, the international community managed to discuss the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period, the negotiation process itself of reaching legally effective treaties on climate change, the start-up of the Green Climate Fund and other critical issues. Due to the difficulty of the process and time limits though, many other important issues still remain to be solved. 

As had been pointed out in the Chinese delegation’s statement immediately after the conference, the Durban conference did not complete all of the “Bali Roadmap” actions, and the implementation of the results of Cancun Agreement and Durban Conference will take time. Much more still needs to be done by all parties to enhance the implementation of the agreements after 2020.

Overall though, there was not much real progress during the 14-day negotiation. On entering Durban, the position and view of each nation had already been clearly expressed.

The EU has long supported Kyoto Protocol’s second committee period, provided that major economies, including other developed and developing nations made legally significant commitment on emissions reductions after 2020, (the Roadmap and Timetable).

Immediately after the Beijing ministerial consultation held in early November, 'BASIC' countries publicly expressed their negotiation positions, namely that the Kyoto Protocol’s second committee period was the basis for this international process to move forward, and that developed countries needed to fulfill their promises on funding, technology and skill training to support developing countries.

The BASIC countries established the continuation of Kyoto Protocol, urging developed countries to assume their responsibilities of reducing emissions. The “common but differentiated responsibility” principle was well respected.

The EU got the “Roadmap” and “Timetable” after 2020 that they insisted on, so that it now had reasons to urge the US, China and India as well as other nations to assume absolute emission-reduction responsibilities after 2020.

However, the more important achievement is that most undeveloped nations and small island countries now have the legal support for the continuation of this global process, so that promises by developed countries at Copenhagen about “quick start-up funds” and “$100 billion per year mobilized by 2020” could be reasonably fulfilled.

The “umbrella countries” (an informal group pf non-EU developed countries, key members of which include Australia, Japan, Canada, the US and Russia) on the other hand, failed to gain moral support from other countries and stood closer to the EU in principle.

Tracking the reports after the Durban conference, it is easy to notice the great contrast between the western and the Chinese media. The Chinese media stressed the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period, and the western media on the other hand emphasized that China, India and other emerging economies were forced to agree on the responsibility of emission reduction after 2020. So do not be surprised by the different opinions if you ever discuss Durban with audiences in different countries.

However opinions differ, I think the difficult Durban process and the final agreement indicate that the international community shares views on energy conservation, emission reduction and the importance of climate change.

This is especially true with rapidly-rising large developing countries such as China, which is fully aware of the fact it is in the nation’s vital interest to develop economy, industrial reconstructing and low carbon growth. This is also in line with the leadership needs from the international community’s expectation about China’s green growth.

The Durban conference has ended though, and I believe that China’s policy direction about low carbon growth will be more clear and intensive.

What China will display to the world after 2020 is not going to be a passive image of resuming forced responsibility, but a model of actively developing industrial reconstruction and transformation.

News: COP17 - China confirms official position

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Translated by Fang Zuo. 

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