Delegates say it’s too early to give up on COP17

It was too early to start writing COP17’s obituary, South African delegates said yesterday on the third day of the climate talks in Durban.

The officials were reacting to widespread reports protecting doom and gloom for the conference with no significant outcome.

Canada’s arrival in Durban with the news that it was abandoning the Kyoto Protocol, only added more oil to the fire of Durban’s prophets.

But in an interview, South Africa’s head of delegation and environmental minister, Edna Molewa, said that the chances of COP17 “collapsing” was remote.

“It is way too early to say now that everything is falling apart,” she said, adding that there was actually more trust and progress among the nations on the third day then there was in Cancun last year at the last round of climate talks.

The negotiations in Cancun have been widely viewed as fruitful.

Molewa explained negotiators were only now in the first week preparing a text for the high-level meeting next week, when the ministers from the different nations start arriving.

“We are doing the work now, laying the ground for next week,” she said.

She said South Africa was still deeply concerned about Canada’s decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol

“It is definitely not ok,” she said. “We have to engage Canada and understand their problem, why they are abandoning Kyoto.”

Molewa said it was important to keep the negotiations going even with Canada’s negative attitude.

“You just never give up on anybody. You keep going, listen and try to understand where they are coming from,” she said.

South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation minister and the COP17 president, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, also dismissed the notion that COP was off to the worst start possible.

“From an organisational perspective, the conference is proceeding well,” she said. “Discussions are proceeding as planned and the environment is conducive for constructive engagements.”

Nkoana-Mashabane repeated that she had held extensive formal and informal consultations with parties in various settings prior to the commencement of this important Conference.

“I intend to continue with these consultations in an open and transparent way as the negotiations progress, not only to keep parties fully informed, but also for myself to get a sense of where special attention is required before it becomes a problem,” she said.

She said the conference had to answer the “very important question of the future of the Kyoto Protocol”.

The Kyoto Protocol’s continued existence is one of the thorniest issues the conference has to grapple with. “Durban is a decisive moment for the future of this.

“National positions have been listened to and all we need here in Durban is leadership because that is what is going to define the results of COP17 – leadership includes some kind of compromise on our part as leaders,” she said.

A seasoned South African negotiator said there were still many fireworks left in the wings of the climate talks.

“This really is only the first week, and you can’t say much from the first week.

This COP can still offer a lot, and my prediction is there will be great excitement and even a
good outcome on the final night,” the negotiator said. “People would be very foolish to view the talks as dead and buried.”

» Follow our COP17 coverage here.

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