Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Durban package: a first assessment

Delegates huddle to resolve outstanding issues
Courtesy of IISD

On Sunday morning, after more than 14 days of negotiations, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 17) came to an end. Delegates from 195 countries achieved two main outcomes. Firstly, the Working Group which works on the future commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) decided that there will be a second commitment period. It shall begin on January 1, 2013 and end either on December 31, 2017 or 2020 (to be further agreed by the group). By May 1, 2012 countries which take part to this second period have to convert their economy-wide reduction targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives (QELROs) and submit them for consideration by the next session of the AWG KP. From a legal point of view, the Conference proposed to amend the Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol by including Annex I Parties’ commitments for a second reduction period. Despite the document takes into consideration that Canada, Japan and Russia do not intend to participate in a second period, this solution allows to save the future of market-based mechanisms and, at the same time, to avoid that developing countries will continue to block the negotiation process on that issue. The proposal also adds the Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) to the six greenhouse gases (GHG) regulated under the Protocol (1995 or 2000 will be the base year). The second key outcome is the launch of a process aimed at developing a protocol, another legal instrument or a legal outcome under the Convention applicable to all Parties. To achieve this, a new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG DB) has been established. The group shall start its work in 2012 in order to adopt the new instrument by 2015 and to implement it from 2020. In addition, the Conference asked to raise the level of ambition of the new agreement, according to the future recommendations of the IPCC. This last-minute compromise, which puts together developed and developing countries, represents a success of the EU strategy which strongly linked its approval of a second commitment period to the adoption of a roadmap for a new climate comprehensive agreement to be launched by 2020. Besides these two unexpected results, the COP also achieved some progress in defining outstanding issues of the Cancun Agreements. In particular, the Green Climate Fund has been launched as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the Convention. It will start to operate in 2012. Although countries failed to agree to a plan to capitalise it, they succeeded to approve a broad design of the Fund and to set up the body that will manage it. Resources will be allocated between mitigation and adaptation activities in a balanced proportion, ensuring appropriate allocation for other activities and taking into account vulnerable developing countries’ needs. As regards the REDD mechanism, further technical steps to better define safeguards and modalities for forest reference emission levels have been undertaken. Noteworthy is the fact that a summary of information on how the safeguards are being addressed should be provided periodically and should be included into national communications from non-Annex I Parties. Procedures to include Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) activities into the CDM have been put forward. Finally, countries decided that the Technology Mechanism will enter in function in 2012. Almost all countries welcomed the Durban package as a first step in the right direction, with the exception of Venezuela that reported poor nations had been threatened they will not get money for climate finance if they blocked the texts.
All the decisions adopted by the Conference are available at