Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A little news about Durban

Every year, as part of the UNFCCC, signatory states meet someplace in the world to spend two weeks trying to come up with an agreement dealing with climate change. It was out of these proceeding that the Kyoto Protocol was developed and the much maligned Copenhagen Accords were "agreed" upon. Well, the time is upon the world again to think about how to fix climate change for a couple weeks before everyone goes back to their daily lives. As usual, prospects are limited.

Here is a note about the COP17 climate talks going on in Durban right now from a law professor there with a small island delegation.

Things have been rather slow here with the usual posturing about to end -- we hope. Delegations are currently working with a 138-page "amalgamation" text that includes pretty much everything different negotiating blocs have proposed. Quite obviously, this is not a useful negotiating text. As you might expect, little headway is being made on mitigation, but we are hopeful that work on the Green Climate Fund will take significant steps forward.

In the meantime, you may want to know about the following 3 documents, which should have brought a sense of urgency to the negotiations, but which have not:

UNEP's 2011 Bridging the Gap reports that current pledges are at best 6 GT CO2 eq short of keeping global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. Its report from last year said pledges were 5 GT short so the gap is growing.

The International Energy Agency reported in World Energy Outlook 2011 Factsheet that 80% of the cumulative CO2 to be emitted worldwide between 2009 and 2035 to keep CO2 concentrations below 450ppm is already “locked-in” with current infrastructure. Unless internationally coordinated action is taken by 2017, "all new infrastructure from then until 2035 would need to be zero-carbon, unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime."

The Stockholm Environment Institute reported that developing country pledges to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions anchored in the Cancun Agreements are actually greater than developed country pledges.
For those who are out-of-the-loop, the Green Climate Fund was one of the few good things that came out of COP15 in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Accords developed the idea of a Green Climate fund that would be supplied with $100 billion US dollars every year by 2020. No mention was made about who would be responsible for putting in the money or how it would be spent, but some vague language related to the REDD+ program was included. Hopefully this will be hashed out in Durban and the money can start following to the nations that will desperately need the money to adapt to climate change.

We can only hope that substantial progress is made at COP17. The chances are slim if previous COPs are considered, but there is always a chance.