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COP17 Daily: Tuesday December 6

06 December 2011
COP17 Daily: Tuesday December 6

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.

Tuesday, December 6.

It was a day of high ceremony in Durban today as the ministerial part of COP17 got underway. Ministers from over 150 countries, together with a half dozen heads of governments and states, gathered in the main plenary for the opening ceremony. Climate chief Christiana Figueres was joined on stage by Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane the COP President, and by no means least, Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.

Ban Ki Moon told ministers that they must deliver four critical outcomes in Durban to ensure its success. First they needed to operationalize the new institutions and processes that had been agreed in Cancun, not least on adaptation. Second, there had to be tangible progress on short and long-term finance, so that trust could be built and action on the ground initiated. Third, Parties had to deliver clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol – the only rule-based, climate regime the international community had. And fourth, concrete steps had to be taken that moved Parties towards a comprehensive and legally binding agreement for all countries.

The message and tone from President Zuma was much the same. He reiterated the need for agreement on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, noting that parties “must remain true to the principles of the UNFCCC”.  This was no doubt aimed at those developed countries looking to step away from Kyoto. As country host, however, Zuma needed to be seen to be impartial. He therefore championed the needs of small island states and the least developed countries (the majority of which are African). Importantly, he also called for a new global and binding climate regime for all countries by 2020 – a significant statement that aligns with recent announcements from both China and the EU.

Elsewhere, officials remained closeted away in negotiating rooms as they continued their efforts to clean-up decision texts and narrow down options for ministers. Some of this work was taking place off-site, as the South African Presidency used its informal ‘Indaba’ meeting process to generate more open and frank discussion.

An insight into what was happening in the Kyoto talks was provided in a formal briefing to observers by the Chair of the Protocol negotiations. He explained that parties were working on what he termed “consensus solutions”* for the second commitment period, but didn’t elaborate on what exactly this entailed. On the other core Kyoto issues, he noted that the talks on rules governing forestry and land use were making progress, while discussions about the Protocol’s so-called ‘flexibility mechanisms’ (such as emissions trading) were being addressed in ‘informal consultations’ – code for a deadlock over a pivotal point or points.

In response to a question, the Chair also explained that negotiators were likely to continue working on issues, rather than hand incomplete texts to ministers by any deadline. This continues a trend from Cancun, where negotiators worked both with, and in parallel to, ministerial discussions as a way of tackling the more complex issues effectively. Whether this approach bears fruit remains to be seen.

On a more positive noted to finish the day, many delegates joined President Zuma, Ban Ki Moon and others at the launch of the ‘Momentum for Change’ initiative.   Backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this initiative is intended to “gather, gain and add momentum” in the words of Christiana Figueres, to show that climate action is happening in developing countries; that businesses are taking action; and that the cost is not prohibitive. Ten so-called ‘Lighthouse’ projects were showcased. Included in this pioneer group was the ‘1000 Villages Solar Lantern’ project between Philips, The Climate Group China, and the One Foundation.   

On a day when much was being asked of ministers, the success demonstrated by these ‘Lighthouse’ projects was hopefully inspiration for all.

*Some additional points on the KP "consensus solutions" noted above: In the Chair's informal written briefing available here three options were identified for the second commitment period (2CP) i) provisional application by developed countries of a 2CP; ii) a two stage process involving some kind of decision in Durban supporting a 2CP followed by formal amendment to the Protocol in the coming year (or two); and iii) a unilateral declaration by individual parties.  The Chair noted the first option was very difficult for many developed countries, while option iii is unlikely to be acceptable for developing countries.

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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