Hope in Durban

SUBHEAD: UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, enter chaotic finale that may lead to an agreement.  

By Richar Black on 10 December 2011 for the BBC - 

Image above: Detail of illustration for climate article in Rolling Stone by Matt Mahurin. From (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-of-denial-20110622).
At UN climate talks in South Africa, the host government says agreement has been reached on many of the key issues.

But some delegations are very unhappy with elements of the draft text drawn up by the hosts, in particular on the "roadmap" to a binding global deal.

The EU and many small, poor nations want a legally-binding deal that will curb emissions well before 2020.

But the draft text talks only of curbs after 2020, and does not specify a legally-binding outcome.

"The latest text is not acceptable to us and to many other parties," said UK Climate Secretary Chris Huhne.

"The UK, as part of the EU, will continue to push for the most credible deal that meets the needs of the science."

Many other issues are tied up in long documents before delegates, who have embarked on a series of official sessions at which all the texts must be approved.

If they cannot reach agreement, there is a real prospect of talks collapsing.
'Lack of urgency'
Small-group meetings are also continuing on the main points, though it is hard to see what can be achieved, given the incompatibility of the basic positions.

An added complication is that some ministers have already left, with the meeting running more than a day beyond its scheduled close.

The South African hosts have come in for a lot of criticism over a perceived lack of strategy and urgency.

And the new draft text appears to go back towards the position of the few big, important countries opposing a strong deal - the US, Brazil, China, and India among them.

"There's so much clarity about the crisis - when even the International Energy Agency says 'you've got five years', it couldn't be clearer," said Tim Gore, senior policy adviser with Oxfam.

"And if they can't find a way to solve it with everyone in the room, they have to do it with those that want to, leaving the US behind."

What delayed matters further was a fake text issued apparently by the South African presidency after consultation with the EU, US, Brazil, India and China.
Consternation and fury
It contained weaker targets and longer timescales, and was initially greeted with consternation by the EU, Aosis and the LDCs, which have been pressing hardest for a strong deal.

The consternation turned to fury when it was discovered that the text was fake. European officials said it appeared to be a deliberate attempt to stall negotiations.

The perpetrator has not been identified. But it appears likely that the aim was to fracture the ad-hoc partnership between the EU and its developing world allies.

The real earlier draft, released on Saturday morning, proposed that the "roadmap" towards a new deal encompassing all countries would begin in the New Year and complete by 2015 at the latest, to come into force at an unspecified later stage.

If also spelled out the fact that there is a mismatch, a gap, between the pledges countries have already made on cutting emissions and the cuts necessary to keep global temperatures within 2C of pre-industrial levels.

Developing countries have insisted that EU nations must put their existing pledges on restricting emissions under the Kyoto Protocol; and this appears to have survived through to the latest text.

It would not mean tougher cuts in Europe in the near future, but it would put EU pledges under an international legal framework.

Agreement on managing the Green Climate Fund, which will eventually gather and disburse finance amounting to $100bn per year to help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to climate impacts, also appears within reach.

But with disagreement clearly manifesting itself in early exchanges in the formal sessions, everything could be held hostage to the main disagreement on the roadmap.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Pacific nation to get off fossil fuel 12/9/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Fast Lane 12/7/11


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