Monday, December 12, 2011

Details of the Deal Reached at COP 17

The participants at the U.N. climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, managed to come to an agreement on a package of measures early on Sunday that would eventually force all the world's polluters to take legally binding action. A new body known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action was also established to negotiate a global agreement.

This achievement is a positive step forward given the fact that there were very low expectations for COP 17. Hopes of reaching a deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol had all but vanished prompting the German environment minister Norbert Röttgen to say:

"We are now in an extremely critical situation because of time. The delay is very critical ... It is very doubtful whether we will succeed."

Despite resistance from China, India and the US, in an extended session, Europe succeeded in getting the parties to agree on a legally binding protocol by 2015 that would cover the world's major carbon polluters. The plan extends the existing Kyoto Protocol, and will see the world's biggest emitters enter into binding emission cuts by 2020.

The 190 countries agreed to four main elements, 1) A second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, 2) The design of a Green Climate Fund, 3) A mandate to get all countries in 2015 to sign an emissions reduction deal that would force them to cut emissions no later than 2020 and 4) A working plan for 2012.

Although the details still need to be worked out, there was a general agreement on extending Kyoto for five years. The deal extends Kyoto, whose first phase of emissions cuts run from 2008 to the end of 2012. The second commitment period will run from January 1, 2013 until the end of 2017.

The parties at COP 17 agreed to start negotiations for a new legally binding treaty to be decided by 2015 and to come into force by 2020.

The fate of Kyoto's Joint Implementation (JI) mechanism, remains uncertain as negotiators once again failed to come to a decision on whether to allow emission reduction projects to earn carbon credits under the scheme beyond 2012.

Although the exact definition of terms has yet be precisely defined, this agreement is important because of what is known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. Under this Platform, member states would "develop a new protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force that will be applicable to all Parties to the UN climate convention."

Even though there was no pledge to extend the emissions cuts made at COP 15 and 16, participants at COP 17 agreed to develop a new legal instrument that would "raise levels of ambition" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

In addition to the above, the Durban Package will build trust by making the process more transparent

COP 17 saw progress on the design of Green Climate Fund to channel up to $100 billion a year by 2020 to poorer nations. However, details of exactly where the money will come from were not forthcoming.

Next year there will be further discussions that will develop a new market mechanisms to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. This mechanism will "bear in mind different circumstances of developed and developing countries." Recommendations will be made at the summit in Qatar at the end of 2012.

New rules have been created for carbon capture that will force project developers to put five percent of the carbon credits earned in a reserve, to be awarded to them only after site monitors have proved that no carbon dioxide has leaked from the underground store 20 years after the end of the crediting period.

Delegates agreed to consider private funding and market-based mechanisms as options to finance the program on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Although it may take years to put into place, the agreement will facilitate private investment.

To see the final texts click here.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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