Updates on COP17 – More Business As Usual
By most activist accounts, COP17–which just ended in Durban, SA this weekend–has been yet one more long, official failure to reach any real climate agreements or GHG reduction targets. And like in the past, no binding agreements were set and any real work on climate change reform was pushed back into the indefinite future. Here’s what Climate Justice Now had to say in their press release on the negotiations–“COP17 Succumbs to Climate Apartheid.”
Decisions resulting from the UN COP17 climate summit in Durban constitute a crime against humanity, according to Climate Justice Now! a broad coalition of social movements and civil society. Here in South Africa, where the world was inspired by the liberation struggle of the country’s black majority, the richest nations have cynically created a new regime of climate apartheid.
“Delaying real action until 2020 is a crime of global proportions,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International. “An increase in global temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, Small Island States, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid, whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”
According to Pablo Solón, former lead negotiator for the Plurinational State of Bolivia, “It is false to say that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has been adopted in Durban. The actual decision has merely been postponed to the next COP, with no commitments for emission reductions from rich countries. This means that the Kyoto Protocol will be on life support until it is replaced by a new agreement that will be even weaker.”
The world’s polluters have blocked real action and have once again chosen to bail out investors and banks by expanding the now-crashing carbon markets – which like all financial market activities these days, appear to mainly enrich a select few.
To get a sense of what some of the issues were, John Vital from the Guardian UK talked with Bolivia’s chief climate negotiator Pablo Solon about the failure at Cop 17 climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa. The interview is quite revealing, and speaks to the issues of what “really” matters in these negotiations–money! No big surprise once again, but still saddening to see that as the world burns, Nero continues to play his climate inaction fiddle. Here’s the video of their interview.
For more on this, you can see the story Vidal ended up publishing in the Guardian UK, which puts a considerably more liberal and “hopeful” spin on the talks than was clear in his interview with Solon above. Ultimately it comes down to no binding agreements, and hopefully by 2015, but maybe 2020, we will start to have some form of binding agreements. If you want more of the policy wonk “wow this is great” perspective, you can read them here and here. If you want t more skeptical SA perspective from within, see here.
You can find more of the documents which Solon refers to on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change website. If you scroll down under their “Decisions”, in particular there are these documents:
- Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention
- Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action
- Launching of the Green Climate Fund
- Technology Executive Commitee – modalities and procedures
- National adaptation plans
- REDD+ : Safeguards and reference levels
To get a little better handle on all of this, it is probably helpful to understand the background framework to the COP17 meeting, which can be found here as a pdf or here as a web page. But to get a quick jist of these negotiations read Article 2-Objectives:
The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
But in Article 3 – Principles -5, we get to the real politics:
The Parties should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to sustainable economic growth and development in all Parties, particularly developing country Parties, thus enabling them better to address the problems of climate change. Measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade.
In other words, anything which would impinge on the right of the US, China or India to trade freely–like say binding carbon emission caps or mandatory CO2 reduction technology–would be basically nixed–or in this language “arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination” or a “disguised restriction on international trade.” Can’t have that, our sacred cow, infringed upon in the name of saving the planet, heavens no.
We probably see this most clearly in the opening page of the Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (also linked above), which reads:
Recalling decision 1/CP.13 (the Bali Action Plan) and decision 1/CP.16, elaborating on a shared vision for long-term cooperative action, in particular the mandate contained in paragraphs 5 and 6 of decision 1/CP.16 with regard to working towards identifying a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050 and a time frame for a global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions,
Agrees, in the context of the long-term goal and the ultimate objective of the Convention and the Bali Action Plan, to continue to work towards identifying a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050, and to consider it at its eighteenth session;
Also agrees to continue to work, in the context of the provisions of paragraph 6 of decision 1/CP.16, towards identifying a time frame for the global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions based on the best available scientific knowledge and equitable access to sustainable development, and to consider it at its eighteenth session;
Further agrees that consideration of a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050 and the time frame for global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions cannot be undertaken in the abstract and will necessarily involve matters related to the context for such considerations;
Requests the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention to consider the issue of equitable access to sustainable development, as contained in decision 1/CP.16, through a workshop at its next session. The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention shall report on the workshop to the Conference of the Parties as part of its work;
So basically everything in handed off into the future for more Working Groups to consider. Well, almost everything. There were a few decisions which were moved ahead, like the creation of a Climate Green Fund.
2. Approves the governing instrument for the Green Climate Fund annexed to this decision;
3. Decides to designate the Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the Convention, in accordance with Article 11 of the Convention, with arrangements to be concluded between the Conference of the Parties and the Fund at the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to ensure that it is accountable to and functions under the guidance of the Conference of the Parties to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties;
Oh boy, a Green Climate Fund, that will definitely make a dent in climate change and GHG reductions, right! 🙁
More on that later. Until next time…