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Isn't draft text of Durban climate treaty ready?

Written By Krishna on Monday, December 05, 2011 | 6:12 AM

Isn't draft text of Durban climate treaty ready?

Deliberations on 131-page draft negotiating text that was issued on December 3, 2011 is underway in Durban, South Africa at the Seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The conference appears to be gearing up for at least agreeing on a draft new Durban climate treaty by the time it concludes on December 9. UN Climate Change Conference in Durban started with South African President Jacob Zuma calling on governments to “save tomorrow today” on November 28, 2011.

Introductory remarks by the Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Chair, Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) on this amalgamation document referred to it as a combination of "good rain and bad rain."

It is titled "Amalgamation of draft texts in preparation of a comprehensive and balanced outcome to be presented to the Conference of the Parties for adoption at its seventeenth session". It is authored by UNFCCC. Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). The negotiating text is attached.

The introduction of the draft text reads, "This document intends to bring together the elements of the draft AWG-LCA outcome in the form of an amalgamation of the draft texts emerging from the work in the informal groups ...It provides an overview aimed at enabling delegates to see where there are gaps or lack of balance and to find ways to address these accordingly." India has referred to it as "an evolving text". China felt that it is the first major paper produced since the conference commenced.

The reference to Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) instead of Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) may contain the seed of what lies in the womb of future.

The draft negotiating text lists three options for filling the 100 billion US dollars a year fund to address the urgent and immediate needs of developing countries, but it does not mention a specific monetary goal.

This text is separate from 1997 Kyoto Protocol. EU says it will commit for second round of commitment for targets only if all big emitters agree legally binding cuts that will start in 2020.

With 195 Parties, the UNFCCC has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 193 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

The Kyoto Protocol have committed to cut emissions of green house gases like carbon dioxide, Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

The goal of Kyoto Protocol was to see participants collectively reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% below the emission levels of 1990 by 2012.While the 5.2% figure is a collective one, individual countries were assigned higher or lower targets and some countries were permitted increases. USA was expected to reduce emissions by 7% but it signed it in 1998 as a party to UNFCCC but did ratify the Kyoto Protocol. EU favours a new treaty if USA agrees to be party to it.

Carrying on a routine work, following agreement among Asian group of countries, it has been decided that the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference, COP 18/CMP 8 (the 18th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC, plus the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol), will take place in Qatar from 26 November to 7 December 2012.

At the 8th AWG-LCA plenary meeting since COP16 convened by the Chair of the AWG-LCA held on December 5, the gulf between the rich and the poor countries widened. The meeting was meant to get the responses of countries to the 130-page text for negotiations that was shared on December 3.

Refusal of G-77 and China group of which India is a member raises grave concerns. The text does not factor in deliberations of the informal groups on LCA. Therefore, it is unfit for ministerial deliberations that is to commence from December 7. In the words of the Chinese lead negotiator Su Wei such an "acclamation text" is not even worthy of any consideration.

The text disregards G-77 and China group's position seeking comprehensive and balanced outcome on long-term co-operation among nations to combat climate change, and how such an outcome would be implemented, discussions on this issue have been based on the Bali Action Plan and the definition of the scope of a review of the 2 degrees C threshold pledged in Bali that requires to be finalised by 2015. Instead the entire focus is on ‘Real, measurable, verifiable and additional emission reduction’.

Environmental organisations must reveal their positions on the negotiating text. Whether they are in disagreement with the position of the G-77 and China group? The group says, it is not a text that can be deemed worthy of consideration because it disregards the outcome of discussions in informal groups in pursuance of the Bali Action Plan? what is our response to China referring to it as merely an acclamation text? what do EU, US say about the text? Are decisions being postponed for COP18 at Qatar in Nov-Dec 2012? Isn't the negotiating text in its current form just one of the ‘conference room papers’?

EU's position boils down to getting rid of Kyoto Protocol to accommodate USA. USA negotiated hard to get Protocol diluted and still chose not be party to it. What is the guarantee that the new treaty will not meet the same fate? Has USA assured EU of its change in heart and mind? Has US economy and its life style become negotiable now? What if Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada choose to do what US did with Kyoto Protocol assuming that a new treaty gets adopted either in Durban or or Rio or Qatar. Disregarding media hullabaloo and one way flow of information, the role of BASIC polluters, Brazil, South Africa, India and China must be looked at in the context of their share in the world trade. The share of 37 polluting countries in world trade creates a compelling logic for them to be made accountable in letter and spirit. Historical climate debt both within countries and across the countries due to the role of corporations in particular cannot not be lost sight of in the negotiations. The tendency of EU to hide behind USA and its allies like Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada must be resisted.

If 1997 Kyoto Protocol cannot be saved in Durban, there might still be hope because COP 18 will happen in Qatar in November-December 2012.

Prior to the Qatar meet there will be Rio+20 summit scheduled to be held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This summit can also be used for climate negotiations if there is political will.

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