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The perils on road to Durban

In the following article, a senior expert for FICCI shares her views on what the CDM fraternity can expect from the upcoming COP 17.

With the growing unease at the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Kyoto protocol, a high level of expectancy is brewing as the global leaders prepare for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) scheduled in Durban from November 28 to December 9, 2011. At the last UNFCCC conference in Cancun in December, 2010, despite ambitious commitments from many countries to address the menace of climate change, fundamental differences on methods to be adopted to achieve these ambitious goals have limited the progress thereafter. Given that the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol ends in December, 2012, it is imperative that a deal is sealed at the Durban climate summit.

The continued efforts to contain carbon dioxide emissions took an unfortunate turn in 2010, as the highest amount of greenhouse gases were recorded in the atmosphere. Nascent economies and developing nations like China and India contributed to the peak of the graph as per the International Energy Agency (IEA). Emissions climbed to a record 30.6 GigaTonnes (Gt), which is about 5 percent more than the previous record set in 2008 per the IEA records.

In such a grave scenario, a legally binding global agreement and international cooperation can be the only means to deal with the clear and present danger posed by climate change. Such an agreement is essential to promote an equitable sharing of efforts, responsibilities and targets. The failure of COP 15 in Copenhagen led to a huge disappointment and mistrust in the whole process with activists and observers questioning the relevance of multilateralism and inability of key countries to bring in the requisite domestic legislation. The Cancun Conference helped in restoring a certain level of confidence and provided reassurance to the international community regarding the UN process. At the Cancun Climate summit, Governments agreed on an international system for monitoring and mitigation of climate change, carved out a system for climate finance and established rules for forest preservation. Cancun ensured the survival of Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) programme and opened up scope for its expansion. But it failed to establish a second term period of emission reduction commitments for Kyoto.

The situation today is indeed very tough with the tumultuous world economy burdened with financial and debt crises in both Europe and America. Under such circumstances, chances are remote that Annex 1 countries will accept a legally binding agreement requiring them to commit to greenhouse gas emissions peaking by 2015 and decline in levels thereafter. It is now widely accepted that economic and political challenges are competing with the scientific urgency of reducing emissions as both appear to be compelling realities.

Ms. Christiana Figueres recently said that new policies promoting low-carbon growth and increasing clean technology investment from the private sector were improving the uptake and effectiveness of low-emissions technology. “The clean and renewable energy revolution has already begun – the challenge is to complete it in time,” she said. Though most countries agree on the need for rapid action to ensure avoidance of the grave consequences of climate change, yet, hot issues such as the future of the Kyoto Protocol and climate finance, still remain unanswered. In such an overcharged environment, it is difficult to evaluate with solidity the prospects of Durban summit in terms of establishing a comprehensive global deal for tackling the climate crisis. Some important issues hampering the accord discussions are:

  • The gap between countries’ current targets for emission reductions
  • Developing countries insistence on concrete financial commitments by developed countries as a precondition for undertaking any action themselves
  • Developed economies being burdened by current debt crises and economic recession
  • Issue of the Kyoto Protocol’s future (“To mandate or Not”).

With Kyoto expiring in 2012, there is serious legal and institutional concern over the continuity of the mechanisms and instruments of the Protocol (specifically the Clean Development Mechanism, CDM). The EU has offered a compromise solution by accepting a second commitment period for Kyoto provided all countries agree to a path forward for a new legally-binding instrument under the Convention. But the nations heading into the Durban talks still remain deeply divided.
In the current scenario, a massive up-scaling of policies and legislations is necessary and must be implemented immediately to avert a climate change catastrophe. The business should adopt a more comprehensive approach to climate change including transition to renewable energy and resource optimization. The stakes are high for the Durban talks considering the play of polity.

As per the present status, Canada has formally ruled out accepting new emission-reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol, adding to a sense of crisis as more than 190 countries attempt to build consensus for a new global climate agreement. With clear refusal of US to make new commitments, Canada, Russia and Japan as Kyoto signatories insist that the world needs a new treaty which requires binding commitments from countries such as China, India and Brazil. China and India are insistent that Kyoto principles should remain intact because the treaty recognizes the historical responsibility of the developed world for the current build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Japan has also rolled out a new initiative, Bilateral Offset Credit Mechanism (BOCM), as a new market based decentralized mechanism and is pushing for its recognition under the UNFCCC.

COP 17 in Durban will be judged based on whether it can deliver definite outcomes on aspects such as Technology Transfer, Adaptation, Kyoto Protocol, Green Climate Fund and Standing Committee on Finance. Global treaty proponents are sincerely hoping that Durban summit leads to a comprehensive deal on climate change action and at the very least, helps operationalize at least some of the new institutions and processes agreed at the Cancun summit. A quick action is required to mitigate climate change, now creeping into every thinkable dimension of our society. Global political leaders need to understand climate change is not going to wait for the negotiators to take its toll on humanity.

The author, Archana Datta is the Assistant Director at the FICCI Quality Forum. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization in which the author is working or had worked previously.

Image(s) Courtesy:
Pink Sherbet Photography
Tim Green aka atoach
Dave Bleasdale



Author: sustainabilityoutlook