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COP17 Daily: Thursday December 8

09 December 2011
COP17 Daily: Thursday December 8

All week Damian Ryan, Senior Policy Manager, The Climate Group is providing a daily round-up of the news from the second week of COP17 in Durban, as well as analysis and live tweeting.

Thursday, December 8.

The penultimate day of COP17 witnessed the usual frantic activity associated with the last 48 hours of every annual climate conference. Depending upon who you spoke to, or what you read, the process was either progressing well, on a knife edge, near collapse, or close to a momentous breakthrough.

There was probably a grain of truth in each of these.

The day got off to an earlier than expected start with an informal stocktake by the COP President at 8.30am (the normal start date for official meetings is 10am). Using the possibly official, and certainly overused, catch-phrase of the conference, the President stated that parties were close to “saving tomorrow, today”.  

The President went on to explain that she was working with a small group of lead ministers to personally facilitate talks on a number of core issues, including finance and mitigation. Much of this was being conducted through an open-ended Ministerial ‘Indaba’ process.

The negotiating track chairs also provided updates on where their respective groups were, with both noting that further progress was expected and “consultations” were continuing.

The COP President stated that her aim was to have constructed the core elements of a ‘Durban Outcome’ that evening. Given the history of COP negotiations, this was possibly an optimistic assessment.

Then for the rest of the day, a variety of both open and closed meetings were held. Many of these seem to be delayed or suspended as negotiators grappled with the core dividing issues.

'Various Approaches'

One of the meetings open to observers was on the issue of ‘Various Approaches’ – opaque UNFCCC-speak for discussions about new market- and non-market-based measures.

For Durban, the key question is whether parties can finally agree – after three years of discussion – to establish new market-based measures under the Convention (NB: currently only the Kyoto Protocol has such mechanisms).

The issue is a particularly relevant one for business and subnational governments, since the new mechanism would supplement the existing project-based Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The hope of developed countries, and numerous developing ones as well, is that the new mechanism would enable sector wide (rather than project-by-project) emission reductions. This would deliver an important stepwise increase in mitigation efforts, while adding depth and increased liquidity to international carbon markets.

Interestingly, the main division on this issue is between the main developed country parties, i.e. the EU, the US and Japan. While all support the use of new market measures, they disagree on when they should be established and how to ensure commonality between different systems in different countries or regions.  

On one side sits the EU. It is looking for immediate agreement to establish the mechanisms, with a work programme to then work out the details and agree a common framework in the coming two to three. They see the framework as essential for ensuring environmental integrity as well as fungibility of the carbon ‘off-set’ credits that different mechanisms would produce.

Japan and the US take a somewhat different position. Japan is already in the process of developing its own bilateral carbon offset arrangements, while the US – at least at the federal – remains some way off establishing any similar set up itself.  For these reasons, both countries would prefer not to be tied to a common system – at least at this stage.

Helping to complicate the matter even further are a small number of developing countries who oppose market measures in their entirety and therefore want no mention of them at all.

‘Business in action for low carbon growth’

Had they the time, negotiators looking for some inspiration would have been well advised to attend the joint side event from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP).

The presentations from the panellists highlighted some compelling facts and figures, including evidence from the CDP that the top companies that report to it are now beginning to consistently outperform their non-reporting competitors in share indices.

The CEO of Selco Solar Lighting, an Indian social enterprise, shattered any preconceptions about the ability of the world’s poorest citizens to access affordable solar lighting systems. He explained that these four billion people required completely different financial instruments to help them build sustainable financial eco-systems for ongoing wealth creation.   

A senior director from the IEA-supported CTI-PFAN (a private climate finance advisory network) added to this business success narrative by noting that for every dollar received from sponsoring governments, his network had leveraged a further one hundred in private capital. An impressive leverage ratio by any standard.

‘Dynamic CBDR’ (Common but Differentiated Responsibility)

For this observer at least, the rest of Day 11 of COP was spent wandering in and out of cancelled or delayed meetings.  A notable exception was a briefing to observers by UN climate chief Christiana Figueres

Although this was understandably light on detail given the state of flux of the negotiations, the UNFCCC’s Executive Director did mention the use of an intriguing new term amongst negotiators – ‘dynamic CBDR’. Underscoring its significance, Figueres noted that it “was a miracle that it has even emerged”.

While it is not clear what this term might mean in practise, its use suggests that developing countries may be beginning to reconsider the previously non-negotiable ‘firewall’ that for nearly 20 years has split countries into two overly simplistic groups of ‘rich’ and ‘poor’.

If this development proves to be true, it would arguably rank in significance at Durban with the successful launch of the Green Climate Fund or agreement on a second Kyoto commitment period.  

The final day of COP17 looks set to be an interesting one. 

Further reading

Damian Ryan, Senior Policy Manager, The Climate Group, is writing news and analysis throughout COP17, and providing a more in-depth post-COP Briefing after the events. Keep up to date from daily round-ups on our website and by following him on Twitter during COP17.

Our international policy teams are have also commented on key regional positions in the lead-up to Durban; read about AustraliaChina,EuropeIndia and the US.

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