COP deal ‘too late for some’

2011-12-17 09:27

A week after Durban’s last-ditch deal at COP17, parties are still scratching their heads over whether the deal is in fact good enough.

The deal, called the Durban Platform, has however won over many in the first week of its life.

The Platform for the first time ever obliges developed and developing countries to work on an agreement that should be legally binding on all countries, a big political milestone.

This legal agreement is to be written by 2015 and will come into force by 2020. And in the meantime the Kyoto Protocol will soldier on and the Green Climate Fund will come into being, though the fund is just an “empty shell” at present.

While diplomats and politicians were smiling like Cheshire cats because of the political progress made at the Durban talks organisations such as Greenpeace say the agreement will be too late for some on the planet.

Greenpeace head Kumi Naidoo said emission cuts had to be happening now to keep climate change in check.

“The deal is due to be implemented ‘from 2020’ leaving almost no room for increasing the depth of carbon cuts in this decade when scientists say we need emissions to peak.”

Yet the influential Climate Action Tracker called the Durban Platform “a groundbreaking establishment” and “a major step forward”. But at the same time it estimated that temperatures would rise by 3.5°C by 2100 with the current reduction proposals on the table, instead of the needed 2°C to keep our climate in check.

“A warming over 3°C could bring the world close to several potential global-scale tipping points,” Climate Action Tracker warned.

Stewart Maginnis, International Union for Conservation of Nature’s director of environment and development, said the developed world had raised the bar at the talks.

“A new spirit of compromise spanning the developed and developing countries is an encouraging step forward.”

Durban, however, was all about the shifting of teutonic plates in global geopolitics. For the first time, large emerging economic powers such as China, India, South Africa and Brazil agreed to take on potential emissions caps.

Also the break between these countries was never more apparent than at the past conference, and demonstrated that there was indeed a rift in the G77 plus China group.

At the same time the influence of India and China continued to grow, and the two countries also headed to the fringes of the Basic group due to their hardline stance about a possible legal binding agreement in the future.

India in particular showed that they were indeed a force to be reckoned with and Indian environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan became one of the loudest in the final hours, together with the European Union’s climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Two hours before a deal was reached in the early morning hours, Natarajan brought the talks close to collapse when she questioned the legal wording in the deal.

It was South Africa’s international relations minister and COP17 president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane who saved the day when she called for the “huddle that made history”. Under intense pressure and scrutiny from the media, Hedegaard and Natarajan negotiated the deal that was acceptable to all. It was mad (and tired) diplomacy, but it worked. Nkoana-Mashabane’s leadership had been questioned even after the successful deal, but at the last minute her intervention got it right.

The deal was a victory especially for Hedegaard, who was pushing hardest of all for her European Union’s roadmap to be accepted.

But the backslapping over the Durban Platform, received a sour aftertaste when Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol just as the Canadian environment minister Peter Kent arrived back in his own country. Canada’s actions showed that a promise is not a promise in these climate negotiations.

And Todd Stern, US climate envoy said: “None of us likes everything in it. Believe me, there is plenty the United States is not thrilled about.”

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