COP17 Durban Climate Conference Nov 22-23
26th November 2011,
PACJA calls Africa to heel on Kyoto Protocol | Green Climate Fund state of play | BASIC countries round-up | Climate Caravans and Train | Greenpeace attacks fossil fuel lobby | UNHCR warnings on conflict and refugees |
8:14am GMT, 22 Nov update from Bill GunyonA final word (for now) on that report on Extreme Events and Disasters by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
I've been intrigued by the subtle (and not so subtle) differences in interpretation of its conclusions, as reflected in media headlines:
Extreme weather will strike as climate change takes hold (Guardian)
Climate change means more frequent floods and droughts (Washington Post)
Climate Change Behind Some Extreme Weather Events (New York Times)
Natural Variability To Dominate Weather Events Over Coming 20-30 Years (The Global Warming Policy Foundation)
My hunch is that the ultra-cautious wording of the report is going to lend credibility to a wide range of interpretations, creating problems for policymakers which were unintended. I've tried to enlarge on these thoughts in a longer blog article .
11:41am GMT, 22 Nov update from Bill GunyonMeles Zenawi, head of the African delegation in Durban, is in trouble with African civil society over remarks which imply he might let go of the Kyoto Protocol (see Nov 17th post).
The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) is demanding clarification . Coordinator Mithika Mwenda said:
It is imperative that Africa is firmly united under the agreed position otherwise we shall witness the repeat of Copenhagen’s COP15 when the continent was divided
Two separate African governmental groups have been preparing for the Durban talks and appear to be coming up with different answers. Environment ministers met in Mali in September and were resolute in demands for rich countries to be bound to emissions reductions in a second commitment period of the Protocol.
Zenawi made his backsliding remarks after chairing the separate gathering of heads of state last week. The rapid response of PACJA suggests that Zenawi is a marked man and unlikely to be allowed to pull off a repeat of his apparent climb-down at the 2009 Copenhagen talks.
4:17pm GMT, 22 Nov update from Bill GunyonGreg Barker is the UK Energy and Climate Change Minister. Last week he told Reuters that there's no realistic prospect of agreeing a binding treaty for some years. Now he's trying a new tack:
GregBarkerMP: Obama: Climate change "cannot be denied.We see it in stronger fires, devastating floods, Pacific islands confronting rising seas." THEN ACT!
7:04pm GMT, 22 Nov update from Bill GunyonI've put off writing about REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) because it's become so difficult. Years ago the topic was dead simple - rich countries compensate poor countries for keeping the trees standing - and it seemed ready to roll, as least until the calamitous Copenhagen conference.
Last year's conference got REDD moving again with lots of detail set out in the Cancun agreements. There's been decent funding support for pilot projects and much has been learned from them, not least that the really tricky parts are protecting forest people's rights and securing sustainable finance.
If finance has to come from the private sector, that means awarding carbon credits for preserving trees and in turn that requires demand from richer countries and businesses obliged to reduce or offset their emissions.
And that's the role of the Kyoto Protocol or a broader long term agreement. Without a deal in Durban, REDD may become more bogged down with its own small print.
Leony Aurora takes up the story in the excellent blog maintained by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
7:23pm GMT, 22 Nov update from Bill GunyonThe UN climate secretariat has released details of the state of play on the Green Climate Fund . This is the all-important vehicle for receiving and distributing climate finance arranged by the richer countries to assist developing countries in tackling global warming.
There's a useful list of items about the governance and operation of the fund prepared by a special Transitional Committee. What the article doesn't say is that the Committee was supposed to have agreed these points in advance, leaving the Durban talks free to concentrate on sourcing the finance.
But the US and Saudi Arabia scuppered the deal , creating additional headaches for the process. It's possible that a messy compromise may undermine some of the work of the Transitional Committee.
7:35pm GMT, 22 Nov update from Bill GunyonPresident Jacob Zuma of South Africa is not the world's most riveting public speaker but all credit to him for devoting a national broadcast to the subject of the Durban climate talks .
It's a thoughtful explanation of what's going on, why it's important to South Africa and why climate change is a threat to all Africans.
Zuma has been presented with a last-minute headache by his own Treasury department withholding part of the funding for the even t.
This article also mentions that 8 heads of state are expected to attend the conference, including Felipe Calderon of Mexico - potentially a valuable adviser after his sky-high rating at Cancun last year.
8:57pm GMT, 22 Nov update from Adam GrovesWhat are the big issues that are going to be discussed in Durban? What are the possible positive outcomes? And what's the potential for a genuine global climate justice movement ... these just some of the questions tackled by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition in this video introducing the UN Climate Talks - made as part of their African Climate Connection campaign.
10:27pm GMT, 22 Nov update from Bill GunyonA quick round-up of the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) who have all staked out a position on the Durban talks over the last 24 hours.
These countries are pivotal because they have become "major emitters" but have no commitment to reductions under the Kyoto Protocol. China and India are 1st and 3rd on the list of carbon dioxide emissions for 2010.
China's tactics follow a familiar pattern. A report described as a "white paper" boasts about energy efficiency achievements and future goals that are already in the public domain. Seizing the moment of moral ascendancy, chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua demands greater binding commitments from US and other mature economies.
India doesn't seem bothered with such window dressing. Meena Raman of Third World Network has carefully documented a press conference with environment minister , Jayanthi Natarajan. The core message is that India demands the unconditional renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. Not a conciliatory gesture in sight.
The position of Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, the key player from Brazil , is much the same. He's not interested in talking about binding commitments until 2020.
As for South Africa, they're not saying much at all. As host country, the three D's are paramount - be Diplomatic in hope of securing a Deal named after Durban for posterity.
12:06pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Bill GunyonThey should hold more UN climate conferences in Africa. The continent inspires great journeys, not least for grassroots climate activists. I've identified three cross-continental caravans and one train heading for Durban.
They share a common goal to explain to ordinary Africans what is happening to their climate and who is responsible. There are petitions to sign, meetings with local communities, endless song&dance, and one (very bad) vuvuzela contest .
The Caravan of Hope has a mainstream NGO profile. It's organised by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and big international groups like Christian Aid and ActionAid are clearly helping out. In Pretoria they hope to link up with a small caravan from Mozambique organised by the local Via Campesina peasant farmers' group.
We Have Faith is a pan-African faith movement following a similar itinerary, incredibly demanding on stamina and logistics. This caravan is driven on by the promise of a big party on arrival in the shape of Sunday's rally with all the faith and climate A-list celebs.
The Climate Train sounds a great project, pottering through small towns and villages within South Africa, its carriages decked out for creative and learning sessions at each stop.The twist in its story is that the journey is not one way, the organisers plan to retrace their steps, bringing news of the outcome of the conference. Food for thought for political leaders.
5:11pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Adam GrovesWho is holding us back in the fight against climate change? A new report from Greenpeace documents a series of alleged lobbying and marketing efforts led by major oil and gas interests . Introducing the report, Greenpeace Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo reveals that:
while their actions may be invisible, their outcomes are anything but. Collectively they spend the equivalent of the GDP of entire nations, to block progress on climate legislation, and ensure that fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies continue to give unfair advantages to dirty energy, above the safe, clean renewable energy future the public demands.
We'll be talking to the leaders of the new green economy in Durban next week - to get the sunnier side of the business story.
8:36pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Bill GunyonYesterday I was grumbling about the complexities of REDD, the UN's proposed scheme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation .
Here's Louis Verchot of the Center for International Forestry Research making a good fist of simplifying each of the key components of REDD. As well as finance these include the tricky question of how you measure something that does not happen? (ie. keeping trees standing).
8:52pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Bill GunyonHere's a rare offer to participate in the climate talks:
We’d like you to suggest questions that can be brought up to the delegates at the conference. It’s going to be an intense conference. A lot of government representatives are going to have their own agendas that need to be debated. But what about your issues?
This comes from Panos London, the development agency specialising in media and communications projects. Together with the Climate Change Media Partnership, they are sponsoring 19 climate change journalists to cover the event.
They can assist in putting your question .
9:20pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Bill GunyonThe head of the UN Refugee Agency , António Guterres, made a powerful statement today to the UN Security Council in New York. He warned about:
the growing threat to international peace and security from climate change and its interaction with other mass displacement factors
This baffled me because it was only in July that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put a motion to the Security Council on exactly this issue. It was significantly watered down by China who argued that climate change already has UN institutions in place.
Why doesn't Mr Guterres bring his speech to Durban?
He did make an interesting comment on the controversial business of predicting numbers of future climate refugees, a phrase he would prefer us not to use:
Instead (of numbers), we should be addressing the more complex issue of the way in which global warming, rising sea levels, changing weather patterns and other manifestations of climate change are interacting with, and reinforcing, other global imbalances, so as to produce some very powerful drivers of instability, conflict and displacement
This is the trouble with the human impact of climate change - you can't pin it down because it's niggling away at almost everything, from peace to potatoes.
9:38pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Bill GunyonCOP17 in numbers , a smart graphic from a South African company showing how the Durban conference compares with its predecessors in Cancun and Copenhagen.
It also estimates the number of cups of coffee that delegates will be obliged to consume to stay awake and the total carbon footprint of the event.
10:09pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Bill GunyonWhat's new on the political front today? A little disappointing, especially Angela Merkel's contribution , as reported by RTE , the Irish national broadcaster.
We are in an extremely difficult situation where the Kyoto Protocol expires, we have not got far, and an extension of the protocol will unfortunately not happen in Durban
Then analysts from The Climate Group's Delhi office confirmed predictions of a tough line from India in the negotiations. But they throw an extra spanner into the works:
Also ruled out is the international verification of India’s voluntary climate action. India had earlier expressed a willingness to consider this under the proposed “international consultation and analysis” mechanism – a critical part of any final agreement.
Ouch! Let's hope this is a false alarm.
Last but not least is Todd Stern , the US Special Envoy on Climate Change. Fortunately he kept up his record of saying very little in a press conference lasting half an hour - it's here if you fancy it.
10:27pm GMT, 23 Nov update from Bill GunyonLet's move swiftly on to a couple of more motivational quotes . Firstly, Christiana Figueres , in her introduction to the latest newsletter from the UN climate secretariat:
people everywhere will soon want to know how governments intend to keep the world on track towards the low-emissions, climate-resilient future that is the only sustainable future for humanity. There is reason for optimism, given the clear global momentum for change.
The second is from Asad Rehman , Friends of the Earth UK, interviewed in The African Climate Connection, a video that we posted here yesterday:
what we lack is political power and the only way that we're going to get that political leverage is if we have a global climate justice movement all around the world acting together putting pressure on their leaders