After running into overtime, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) finished Saturday. While press coverage of the event was somewhat muted compared to previous conferences (the aftermath of the EU Summit in Brussels on Friday night took most of the limelight), the reactions to the outcome range from mildly positive to slight disappointment. Some of the main points from the summit include:
- A pledge to work towards a legally binding climate change agreement no later than by 2015 (with the view of operationalising it by 2020). To this effect a new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action was established.
- An extension of the Kyoto Protocol’s commitment period for a number of countries most notably the EU.
- Agreement on the design of the extensive funding regime which is to assist developing countries in adapting to and mitigation climate change. This includes the Green Climate Fund although many details on the exact origin of the promised $100bn are not yet specified.
- The agreement on procedures for allowing carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to form part of the CDM.
Critics point out that there may not be much gained from the extension of a Kyoto commitment period which doesn’t include emission reduction requirements from the leading emitters such as China, the US and India (the EU emits roughly around 14-15% of total world CO2 emission). On the other hand, perhaps the EU’s willingness to step forward when countries like the US, India and China were unwilling to take action is to be applauded. If nothing else, perhaps this indicates that the EU can show leadership in a time of crisis and when leadership seems absent from the European negotiations on the debt crisis.
Elsewhere commentators point out that the Durban outcome is another indicator that the UN system has outplayed its role in climate change negotiations. Likewise, private businesses would no doubt have preferred a bit more clarity in respect to climate finance. Similarly, the recognition that the two degree Celsius target is out of reach will no doubt disappoint many. On the other hand, the fact that a roadmap now seems to have been hammered out may prove a much needed impetus. Overall, it seems that the reactions to Durban are moderately positive. But then again, this may be because expectations were appropriately lowered in light of past disappointments.