Doha — International political heads engaged in negotiations at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP18) in Doha are faced with the urgency of climate change action.
Many countries are already experiencing extreme weather conditions, the recent being Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines, which has already killed over 270 people.
Although talks ahead of the high-level segment of the Conference of the Parties to the international treaty -- the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- proceeded successfully last week, they reached deadlock on some key issues - more importantly finance.
"We've got ministers on board now and they will help with resolving the finance impasse in particular. As negotiators, we have done our best and ministers must now help us move forward," said one of South Africa's key negotiators, Xolisa Ngwadla.
History has seen the UNFCCC climate change talks reach a near deadlock, but because all countries involved in the talks want a solution to climate change, parties find a way of moving forward towards an international agreement.
In the remaining time of this conference, international political heads must find favourable and fair agreements that are legally binding on all parties.
The key principal issues on the agenda of the negotiations include issues around ambition, legal form, assistance to developing countries, and rules and institutions.
Ngwadla said that the key issues that were now outstanding ahead of the close of the conference on Friday were different in nature.
"There are issues that have political resolution that we're still working on. For example, with the Kyoto Protocol, we already had a political agreement but we were dealing with operational issues. Unresolved political issues must not fall off the table and COP must find a way of addressing those issues."
The climate change talks in Durban last year agreed to create a legally binding agreement by 2015 to limit the global average temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The Doha talks are about implementing decisions that were reached in Durban. South Africa is of the view that a multilateral, rules based international climate change regime is the only hope for maintaining temperature increases below 2 degree Celsius.
It is important that the negotiations, which were held under the AdHoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, result in a legal regime that respects the principles of the UNFCCC, such as common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and also give expression to the principle of equity.
"It's important that there are adequate legal provisions for us to realise what we agreed to in Durban but there are certain legalities that we need to ensure that they are dealt with," said Ngwadla.
The 2007 Bali Climate Change Conference resulted in the adoption of the Bali Road Map, which consists of a number of forward-looking decisions that represent the various tracks that are essential to reaching a secure climate future.
The Bali Road Map, which included the Bali Action Plan, had an agenda that revolved around four building blocks, namely: mitigation (reducing or avoiding emissions), adaptation (to the unavoidable impacts of climate change), financing and technology.
"In the course of the Bali Road Map negotiations, we have come up with a lot of institutions that help the convention in implementing these provisions; however, underlying commitments around mitigation and finance have not been addressed," said Ngwadla.
He cited this as a challenge because 2013 will be a new negotiating phase of what is meant happen beyond 2020, yet "there is no substance to implement what will happen between now and 2020".
"We are prepared to negotiate about what will happen in 2020 but we are not prepared to negotiate committing to any action. It's a difficult situation that developed countries are putting us under. We have given everything, and it's time for them to give," he said.
As a developing country, South Africa, joined by amongst others Brazil, China and India, committed to doing more to combat climate change and to taking measurable, reportable and verifiable mitigation action.
"What is primary in this session is everything that is necessary in implementing the Bali Road Map must be resolved here in Doha," said Ngwadla.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who addressed the opening of the high-level talks, expressed the need to agree on mid-term financing by 2015 from next year. However, there seems to be a stalemate on the finance discussions.
Ngwadla said there was consensus between least developed countries and middle income countries that it was not enough to say that there were plans to increase aid for climate projects to USD 100 billion by 2020.
"We would like to understand what the mid-term targets are. South Africa is putting pressure on developed countries to put something on the table in that regard," said Ngwadla.
Despite the outstanding issues that still remain, Ngwadla is hopeful that an agreement will be reached on Friday.
"Doha is about implementing what we have already agreed. I'm hopeful that ministers will respect the outcomes that we reach in Doha," said Ngwadla.