COP 17 in Durban: A Largely Empty Package

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Policy Paper

COP 17 in Durban: A Largely Empty Package

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iStock. Montage by Milena Jurca.

Summary Assessment of the Durban Package

December 19, 2011
By Lili Fuhr, Liane Schalatek and Kulthoum Omari

The gains we got – from a perspective of climate equity – are:

  • A second commitment period of the Kyoto-Protocol that secures the continuation of the only international legally binding mechanism we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions – albeit with no concrete targets, generally very low ambition and many loopholes.
  • A political agreement to work towards a legally binding global climate regime that - in acknowledging the shifts in the global economy over the course of the past 20 years - will cover all emitters. This legally binding approach is much different and much better than the pledge and review world we have been heading for since Copenhagen. It represents an acknowledgement of the fact that a global problem requires a global solution. The spirit of multilateralism was thus kept alive. However, the language in the Durban package is very weak and open to any attack to change the course of this pathway in the upcoming years.
  • A repeated recognition of the gigaton gap and the need to close it in light of the review process, recent climate science and the existing low ambition of Annex-1 countries. However, there is still no concrete mechanism on how to do this. A work programme is simply not enough.
  • The implementation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) under the guidance of and accountable to the COP with a balanced and comprehensive governing instrument as well as an intermediary process to get the Fund up and running as quickly as possible. However, there was neither a decision nor a political commitment to guarantee sustained financial contributions for the Fund. Specifically, with the issue of long-term finance and its sourcing unresolved in the UNFCCC process, the Green Climate Fund is in danger of becoming an empty shell.

Some key issues we failed to achieved are:

  • Raising ambitions globally to ensure a peak of emissions by 2015 – which science demands. While the second commitment period with low ambition will last until 2017 or 2020 and a new deal will bind everyone from 2020 onwards, we don’t have a good plan for the next 8 years – the crucial period to prevent run-away climate change. The process to raise ambition in the coming years is supposed to be informed by the 5th assessment report of the IPCC and the review process on the 1,5 °C target – both due in 2015. Without a global goal and concrete effort sharing formula, the legally binding approach will remain a bottom-up one.
  • One of the core principles of the UN framework convention, “common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) and respective capabilities” is not in the new mandate. But without a clear formula for effort sharing and implementation of climate equity in the global climate regime we will fail to raise the necessary ambition and also risk a complete breakdown of the process.
  • While we have a new Green Climate Fund getting ready to start its important work in a transitional period until 2013, it is nothing more than an empty promise unless we secure reliable sources of new and additional, predictable and adequate financial resources beyond voluntary pledges in the long term. The Durban Package only repeats some of the commitments of Copenhagen and Cancun, but fails to indicate a trajectory for scaling up financial commitments from the fast start finance period ending by 2013 to the $100 billion per year by 2020 in long-term finance promised. It also fails to secure at least 50 percent of all new funding commitments for adaptation, including for financing flowing through the GCF. This is at the same time that current impacts of global warming are already acutely felt by the most vulnerable groups and countries with urgent adaptation needs remaining structurally underfunded on the global level.

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