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COP17: Alstom VP guest blog 'Half way through and still far to go'

06 December 2011
COP17: Alstom VP guest blog 'Half way through and still far to go'

As part of our COP17 coverage, we include guest posts from business leaders in Durban. Here, Helle Juhler-Verdoner, VP Global Affairs, Environmental Policies & Global Affairs, Alstom, gives us an update on COP17's progress so far - and what's left to go.

Is Durban confounding the low expectations many had of it? Our assessment of the first week of talks, based on feedback from Christiane Figueres and negotiators from Japan, Australia, US, Canada and Denmark, is that there is still hope for some real progress to be made. Despite well-reported difficulties with some of the headline issues, quiet progress has been made on some areas of detail.

The tough issues

  • As expected, discussions about a second Kyoto Commitment period have raised tensions between developed and developing countries over GHG emissions targets after 2012. These difficult discussions could still threaten to overshadow other issues on the agenda;
  • Separately, discussions have addressed the long-term framework for a global agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol and again, the issues of GHG reductions and monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions reductions have proved to be stumbling points;
  • Discussions of the role of carbon markets have also failed to deliver much clarity so far.

So any light at the end of the tunnel?

In UNFCCC terms, progress on the Green Climate Fund has been breathtakingly swift. In the one year between Cancun and Durban, a Transitional Committee of 40 government officials from both developed and developing nations has produced a design for the Fund.

The hope is that design can be adopted quickly to enable attention to move towards implementation and many delegations support this objective. But it will still leave more contentious issues for discussion, notably how the Fund will be funded.

A pragmatic outcome in Durban could be a series of workshops in 2012 to discuss potential sources of funding. But this remains a defining issue for COP17 and, as such, it has been placed under the leadership of the President of the COP, the South African Foreign Minister. It is a key issue to watch in the final week: if the GCF is not established, then COP 17 will be considered a failure.

Good progress has also been made in negotiations on the establishment of the Technology Mechanism. Issues of institutional design aside, Alstom’s perspective is that it will be essential that the Mechanism should adopt an “all technologies” approach, without picking winners or losers.

The second week of negotiations may also see further unhelpful discussion of the weakening of IPR protections for innovators – a regrettable prospect if it distracts attention away from the real issues of supporting investment, capacity building and endogenous growth.

After a year of detailed discussions, the terms of inclusion of CCS in the Clean Development Mechanism have almost all been settled. The remaining sticking point is on handling of liability for leakage of CO2 from storage and whether this should fall to developed countries (as buyers of credits from CDM projects) or to developing countries (as hosts of the projects).

The pragmatic compromise put forward, is that the host should decide for themselves, prior to approval of projects.

The final decision will be made by the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol – hopefully pragmatism will win the day. 

Originally published 05.12.2011 on, by Helle Juhler-Verdoner, VP Global Affairs, Environmental Policies & Global Affairs, Alstom. 

Read more about our work with Alstom  and see Alstom's real-time COP17 conversations and social media content here.

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 AustraliaChinaEuropeIndia and the US.

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