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The Durban Climate Summit and What it Means for Developing Countries

Last week delegates returned from the most recent international negotiations on climate change, held in Durban, South Africa.  CCAP was actively engaged with negotiators during the Conference of Parties (COP) and hosted several events on the sidelines.  After two weeks of negotiations, which ultimately ended 36 hours over schedule, the Parties to the UNFCCC were able to reach agreement on several key pieces of the international climate framework.

Among the most important results of the Durban COP was agreement to launch a new process, dubbed the “Durban Platform”, to develop an instrument, protocol, or other outcome “with legal force” that commits both developing and developed countries to emissions reductions.  The agreement called for this work to be ready by 2015 and implemented by 2020.  Parties also agreed to extend the life of the Kyoto Protocol, which currently commits developed countries to emissions reductions and was due to expire in 2012.  Revised targets and the length of the second commitment period will be agreed at the next COP in Qatar.  Finally, negotiators in Durban made progress on the launch of a Green Climate Fund (GCF), which strives to provide $100 billion per year by 2020 for climate adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries.  These components represent a positive albeit tempered success in Durban.

Despite the extension of the Kyoto Protocol, this industrialized-country-only regime will eventually give way to a global agreement that commits both developed and developing countries to emissions reductions – à la the Durban Platform.  As developed-country emissions-reduction commitments stand currently, the world is a long way from meeting a 2-degree-Celsius temperature increase cap (and Canada officially withdrew from the Protocol following the negotiations).  Fortunately, most developing countries, which comprise a quickly increasing share of global emissions, understand that action on their part is key, and appeared in Durban to have accepted that they will eventually take part in a global, legal system (of course with differentiated levels of commitment).  In fact, least-developed and small-island developing nations aligned with the EU in the final hours of Durban to encourage China and India to agree to work toward this type of outcome.  Durban thus solidified the power of smaller developing countries at the negotiating table.

CCAP held a press conference at COP17 to release its report, Climate Finance Works. Pictured from left are Costa Rican Minister of the Environment Rene Castro, Head of Climate Change Office of the Ministry of Environment of Chile Andrea Rudnick García, Director General of Climate Action at the European Commission Jos Delbeke, and CCAP President Ned Helme.
CCAP held a press conference at COP17 to release its report, Climate Finance Works. Pictured from left are Costa Rican Minister of the Environment Rene Castro, Head of Climate Change Office of the Ministry of Environment of Chile Andrea Rudnick García, Director General of Climate Action at the European Commission Jos Delbeke, and CCAP President Ned Helme.

Going forward from Durban, developing countries will play an essential role in the launch of the Durban Platform and the design of the GCF.  But more importantly, developing countries’ efforts to develop sustainably stand to have the biggest impact on climate change – regardless of what happens at the UNFCCC level.  These countries are already beginning to design and develop nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) in energy, transport, industry, agriculture and other sectors that promise to substantially reduce their emissions from “business as usual” (see CCAP’s Mitigation Action Implementation Network web page).

Understandably, mitigation actions in these countries will often depend on financial and other support from the developed world.  Countries such as Norway, Germany, and the UK have made substantial bilateral commitments to these efforts.  And although agreement has not yet been reached on how the new GCF will be funded initially, the game-changing level of its intended resources and progress made in Durban promise to fulfill the other side of the finance/mitigation quid pro quo.

What developing countries should take away from Durban is that their role has changed over the years and is fundamental going forward: instead of purely the victims of climate change, developing countries are now an integral part of the solution.  The fate of the world will depend on emissions cuts in the developing world – in addition to reductions in industrialized countries.  Durban should therefore encourage developing countries to take ambitious mitigation actions.  But these actions must be met by equally ambitious and timely financing commitments from the developed world.

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