Much ado at Durban

The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol was held at Durban, South Africa, from November 28 to December 9, 2011. It brought together representatives of the country governments, international organisations and civil society. The discussions sought to advance the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action Plan, agreed at COP13 in 2007, and the Cancun Agreements, reached at COP16 in December 2010.

After two weeks of negotiations, Durban presented a mixed reaction on what it has ultimately been able to achieve and seal.

Although the pledge-and-translate mode has taken precedence over a cap-and-trade regime in the negotiations, Durban has put to end all speculations regarding the future of the Kyoto Protocol and has cleared the air on critical issues pertaining to its extension. A decision was taken by the Adhoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol, on the beginning of the second commitment period under the Protocol from 2013 onwards till 2017 or 2020–providing the much-needed momentum to build the carbon markets. Also, the decision clears the ambiguity surrounding the various clean energy initiatives and mechanisms to facilitate it, including the clean development mechanism. Countries like India–with its carbon credits accounting to nearly one-fourth of the market–have huge stakes and stand to benefit.

The Durban deal does discuss an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties. However, the details of this agreed outcome are still to be fleshed out and agreed to by the year 2015. Equity as such did not receive any direct mention in the final text of the Durban Platform but as the agreed outcome has been framed under the convention, we should ensure that India's position on equity and common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) is secured.

Also, the issue of equity is planned to be taken up separately through a workshop being planned next year. However, countries need to be well-prepared to see how to embed these concerns effectively into the negotiating process.

The operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund has seen some progress. However, to bring it into effect, resources will have to be committed religiously and the provisions for it worked out.

In conclusion, while Durban has, as may reviews have argued, revived the Kyoto Protocol and further discussions on the shape of a climate regime of the future, a lot of the details still need to be sketched out.

Tags: UNFCCC, green climate fund, Durban, COP 17, climate change meet