2 December 2011

South Africa: COP17 Talks to Intensify

Durban — The first week of the annual UN climate change summit is usually a relatively sedate affair and COP17 in Durban has certainly not been an exception.

But with the six panels wrapping up their discussions tomorrow ahead of the high level segment of ministers and Heads of State on Tuesday, next week is set to mark the beginning of an intense debate on what should be the global path to address the effects of climate change.

At least 12 Heads of State and 130 ministers are expected to join the talks next week.

The UN reported on Friday that major progress had been made on several issues, including the structure of the adaptation package agreed on in Mexico last year, finance and technology. Negotiators were, however, still locked behind closed doors hammering out possible solutions to the complex debate of the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund.

Developing countries are pushing for a second commitment of the Protocol, which was signed in 1997, committing industrialised nations to measurable emission reduction targets. Earlier this week, Canada became the first developed country to give an indication that it was no longer interested in the Protocol.

Major economies, which include the United States and Japan, are refusing to commit.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres could not confirm reports on Friday that there was a stalemate on the protocol as reported, opting to say the ministers' session next week would provide direction on the future of the treaty.

"As you know, the issue of the Kyoto Protocol is a very crucial issue and central for Durban and discussions are taking place," Figueres said.

She said governments had ample time over this coming weekend to go through a list of proposals which, among others, include the structure of the adaptation package, technology transfer and mitigation plans.

The European Union said it was in favour of the new term of commitment to the Protocol but has attached conditions to this. Figueres said South Africa's International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, in her capacity as COP17 President, had also started consultations on the EU's position.

Russia has also proposed amendments to the convention to allow for a periodic revision of countries that are under certain obligations to cut emissions. Currently, developing nations have fewer obligations to reduce their greenhouse gas emission compared with major economies.

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