Durban: Is an agreement in sight?

By Pascale Palmer
December 9, 2011

Well, the dark skies are persisting over Durban for the climate change talks, but it’s nothing in comparison to the storm over the UK’s vetoing of the new European agreement over fiscal policy and regulation.

Interestingly though this may work well for the EU mandate here at the UNFCCC. Member countries are dealing with so many difficulties back at home, the word is ministers have been told to reach a decent-enough deal in Durban so the issues don’t spill over into the domestic arena on their return.

That said, it all depends on what you mean by a “decent-enough deal”. CAFOD wants to see more than just a life support system that keeps these negotiations alive for another round: we want to see real progress, a shot in the arm, significant deliverables. We’re asking for a strong second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; we’re calling for the Green Climate Fund’s architecture to be agreed and for the plans on how to fill the Fund to be put in place. We’re especially keen on a finance mechanism to raise cash for the Fund that places a levy on marine fuel but without an undue cost burden placed on developing countries. We also want to see a legally binding global agreement by 2015 that brings together the Kyoto Protocol nations and the second track of non-KP countries under one deal.

It’s the final day of negotiations and we’ll be here well into the night. Information is coming in snapshots and it’s not constructive to call anything until it’s really real. But on one of our key issues at least – the Green Climate Fund design, things are looking up. From inside the negotiations and from information repeated at an EU press conference this morning, it looks like this will be agreed.

The details of long-term financing – i.e. filling the Fund and the processes set in place to control and scale up that money – are yet to be discussed at a ministerial level. It looks as though the US are pushing for the least tangible detail possible on this, so CAFOD has been calling on Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne to lead other countries towards something much more substantial during these final hours. We also need ministers to bring sources of finance back to the table. There really is no point in us leaving Durban with a nice, shiny new Green Climate Fund and no plan on how to raise the money that will sit within it.

There’s a new mood here in Durban and as I write, it actually looks as though the sun is trying break through. Yesterday the EU worked very hard to form a new coalition of the willing in the halls of the International Convention Centre. Joining with countries from the Africa Group, the small island states of AOSIS, the Least Developed Countries and some Latin American nations, 120 countries are now attempting to move forward en bloc. EU negotiators were up until 4am and in the words of the EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard this morning: “Today an agreement is in reach”.


(c) Pascale Palmer is Senior Press Officer (Policy and Campaigns) for CAFOD.

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