COP17: Hope for SA to pave way

2011-11-05 18:40

With the Kyoto Protocol expiring next year, a decision has to be made

South Africa is like a student ready to write an exam. This according to Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa when describing the feeling in the South African camp ahead of the climate change talks later this month (November 28 to December 9).

Durban will host the so-called environmental World Cup – the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Molewa, who has just returned from a meeting of environment ministers from the Basic (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) nations in Beijing, China, was optimistic ahead of the talks.

“We are eager because we have put in the hard work. We just want COP17 to arrive now.” Her optimism, she said, resulted from a fruitful meeting in Beijing.

Basic is a group of developing nations consisting of China, Brazil, India and South Africa that have matching interests, such as their rapidly growing economies and relatively large carbon footprint, in the climate talks.

The last time the Basic nations met to discuss climate politics was in August. At the time, India’s hard-line position had threatened the synergy in the group.

“This time around the talks were much better,” said Molewa. “After our discussions, India was much more supportive and will take on a practical approach. Certain issues made them uncomfortable.”

The Kyoto Protocol was once again at the heart of the Basic discussions.

The protocol sets binding targets for 37 industrialised nations and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It expires next year and the representatives

at the Durban conference will have to make significant decisions about whether to extend it, have an interim agreement or at worst, have nothing in place when the expiry date comes.

India had initially taken a hard-line approach to the Kyoto dilemma, demanding rich nations to sign on to a second commitment period, without developing countries taking on any responsibilities.

Molewa said the Basic nations agreed that equity had to be at the heart of any agreement. But these four nations agreed that developing countries had already done a lot, and had gone even further than some rich countries.

Climate chief Christiana Figueres said the countries were actually getting closer ahead of the Durban talks, due to the previous conference of the parties as well as interministerial briefings.

Figueres remains optimistic, saying there were two baskets that had to be delivered in Durban.

The first is the Cancún Agreements, which included the much-discussed Green Climate Fund. The fund was discussed in Cape Town at the end of last month, but hit the skids when Saudi Arabia and the US objected to the design of the fund. Billions had already been pledged and it was hoped that the fund would be finalised in Durban.

In the second basket, the dilemma of the Kyoto Protocol.

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