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Africa: Climate Talks Background, 1

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 27, 2011 (111027)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"For Durban, many countries - particularly developing countries - seek an outcome that is based on science, on the multilateral system reflected in the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and on the deal agreed by all countries in the Bali Roadmap. A handful of wealthy countries - including notably the United States - are now seeking to move the goalposts. They want to end the Kyoto Protocol and replace it with a "pledge based" approach ... Durban, then, is shaping up as a clash of paradigms." - Third World Network

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several reports from Third World Network on recent developments in international climate negotiations preceding the Durban climate change conference taking place from 28 November to 9 December 2011. The first is a general summary of the issues , coauthored with other groups including the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA. This is followed by two summaries of discussions at the most recent international talks preceding Durban, held in Panama earlier this month.

Two other AfricaFocus Bulletins released today also deal with climate change issues. One, sent out by e-mail and available on the web at, has excerpts from a new international report highlighting two priority actions that national governments can take on climate change, namely removing subsidies on fossil fuels and imposing new charges on international aviation and shipping fuel. The other, at, has a selection of excerpts from recent articles and links also of interest for background to the discussions at Durban.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on issues of the environment and climate change, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

UNFCCC negotiations - 3 October 2011

A civil society assessment of the climate negotiations

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Friends of the Earth US
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
Third World Network

The climate talks in Panama represent the best and last chance to get negotiations back on track and prepare for success at the 2011 UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa. What are the key issues? And what needs to be done to prepare for success in Durban?

Setting the stage for success

The Durban climate conference is not going to be easy. The 2010 climate talks in Cancun addressed a number of easier issues leaving thornier ones such as the future of the Kyoto Protocol for Durban.

For Durban, many countries - particularly developing countries - seek an outcome that is based on science, on the multilateral system reflected in the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and on the deal agreed by all countries in the Bali Roadmap.

A handful of wealthy countries - including notably the United States - are now seeking to move the goalposts. They want to end the Kyoto Protocol and replace it with a "pledge based" approach under the Convention thus threatening to dismantle rules on developed countries, shift the burden to developing countries, and renege the Kyoto Protocol, the 2005 mandate for negotiations and the Bali Roadmap.

Durban, then, is shaping up as a clash of paradigms between those who believe that the world deserves and needs a science- and rules-based multilateral climate system building on the existing one in order to tackle perhaps the greatest challenge to face humanity, and those who apparently believe in a voluntary domestic driven system.

The elephant in the room

In the negotiations, the major stumbling block is the United States. It remains the only country to officially remain outside the Kyoto Protocol [ ]; its emissions have increased 16% since 1990 despite its promise under the Convention to stabilize and reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2000; and it is now seeking to dismantle the global climate regime negotiated since 1992.

The US' proposed "bottom up architecture" is a radical departure from the existing system and the deal struck by all Parties - including the US Bush Administration - in Bali. Based on its submissions, this approach involves "domestically derived mitigation commitments" and an outcome that is "legally symmetrical" for all countries, except the least developed. Under the approach supported by the United States there would be:

  • No negotiation of commitments. The US support a "mitigation contribution" that is "domestically derived" and that it has "chosen to list" in an appendix.
  • No internationally binding commitments. The US contribution would be achieved through means "provided for under their respective laws and policies". They will have "targets" that can be reviewed but they will not be bound in international law to achieve them.
  • No comparability of efforts. The US pledge does not take into account how it compares with other developed countries. A senior US negotiator has doubted the need for metrics to evaluate comparability.
  • No assurance of adequate efforts. The proposed "pledgebased" approach does nothing to ensure an adequate level of effort, despite the Convention's requirement that developed countries take on "equitable and appropriate contributions to the global effort".
  • No effective rules on compliance. The US prefers the "sunshine" of transparency, and domestic rules on compliance, over a legally binding international compliance mechanism such as exists already under the Kyoto Protocol.
  • No aggregate target for developed countries. The US remains unwilling to agree a science-based aggregate target for developed countries. It instead prefers merely to aggregate the pledges offered by developed countries. Such an approach would effectively "deregulate" the international climate system. The US supported the Cancun outcome because it prefigures just such an approach.

The US has camouflaged its real intent by sounding positive while shifting attention elsewhere (e.g. to China). According to its leaked 11 March 2010 communications memo, it seeks "to reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change".

A race to the bottom

Inspired perhaps by the US, some Kyoto Parties (Canada, Russia and Japan) are refusing outright to undertake a second commitment period, despite their international obligations, the 2005 mandate for negotiations, and the 2007 Bali Roadmap. Yet they continue to sit in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations where they fail to negotiate in good faith.

Other countries (Australia, New Zealand, European Union, Switzerland and Norway) claim to support the Protocol, but are imposing "conditionalities" that would compel the same result to end it.

In promoting a new treaty under the Convention all seem to be operating under the misguided notion that sometime soon the US will be ready to agree to a new treaty. Anyone who has followed US politics over the last decade, let alone recently, might question the wisdom of this.

A new "mitigation treaty"

Some developed countries have called for negotiations towards a new legal treaty to be launched in Durban. Australia and Norway, for instance, propose a mandate for a new treaty with "binding mitigation commitments by both developed and developing countries", except the least developed. Notably, the proposal so far does not explicitly condition corresponding agreements on the Bali Roadmap on issues of adaptation, finance, technology and capacity.

A narrowly focused "mitigation treaty" under the Convention offers a "triple win" for the developed countries. It would provide:

  • New mitigation commitments (versus actions) for the developing countries;
  • Weaker mitigation commitments than already applicable to the developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol; i.e. voluntary emission pledges determined domestically, and
  • No new commitments on the other Bali "building blocks" - adaptation, finance, technology and capacity - all of which are critical to developing countries.

Australia and Norway suggest such a treaty could exist alongside the Kyoto Protocol, but they understand all too well that no developed country will continue in the Kyoto Protocol if they can "jump ship" to a weaker treaty under the Convention. And no one expects a Convention-track treaty to be stronger than the Kyoto Protocol, particularly if they expect the US to participate.

Plan C: Expand the Kyoto Protocol?

Some countries are now discussing an old proposal with a new makeover - i.e. creating mitigation commitments for developing countries through an Annex C in the Kyoto Protocol. This "Plan C" has the advantage of "saving" the Kyoto Protocol. But it imposes new binding commitments on developing countries, when the deal in Bali was for "nationally appropriate mitigation actions" and disregards the principles of equity, historical responsibility and differentiated responsibilities and capabilities. It does not guarantee any treaty outcome under the Convention track on adaptation, finance, technology or capacity. And negotiating a new Annex C requires substantive changes to the Kyoto Protocol, an outcome that would itself take considerable time.

All of these approaches - a new "mitigation treaty" and an "expanded Kyoto Protocol" - involve caving into Annex I countries' efforts to manufacture a crisis in Durban involving the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, and to move the goalposts rather than honor the Bali Roadmap. None of them ensures a balanced approach across and within the two tracks. None ensures legally binding outcomes on adaptation, finance, technology or capacity. And none immediately addresses perhaps the greatest problem - the profoundly inadequate ambition by Annex I Parties to reduce their emissions.

Mitigation: close the gap

To keep global warming below 2°C, around 12Gt of climate pollution must be cut globally by 2020 according to UNEP (around 14 is probably required to be in line to keep warming below 1.5°C). In Copenhagen developing countries have already pledged more than 5Gt of reductions with the support of finance, technology and capacity. They are willing to do their part, subject to delivery of finance, technology and capacity in accordance with the Convention.

So to keep warming below 1.5°C a gap remains of around 9Gt (i.e. 14 minus 5). Despite this, developed countries have offered less than 4Gt of reductions, an effort considerably less ambitious than that offered by developing countries, and despite their "differentiated responsibilities and capabilities". Moreover, they have available around 4Gt in accounting "loopholes", meaning they could comply with their pledges with no actual mitigation. Carbon markets would make this outcome even worse. They could, in other words, make no net contribution to reducing emissions by 2020.

In addition, developed countries are insisting that new market mechanisms be introduced in the negotiations to further enable the rich countries to offset their emission reductions. In a world that needs to move to no carbon emissions in over just a few decades, there is clearly no room for offsets. Rich countries must do maximum reductions at home, as fast as possible. Simultaneously, they must provide substantial support through finance and technology to enable developing countries to tackle the historic challenge of moving out of poverty while eventually cutting emissions. For developed countries to avoid or delay inescapable transformation of their industry at home by off-setting though low-hanging fruit in developing countries is not an option. Expansion of the CDM and proposals for new market mechanisms must therefore be rejected in the negotiations leading up to and beyond Durban.

Finance: Bait and switch

Finance is a key outcome for Durban. Yet disbursement of the $30 billion "fast-start" finance pledged in Copenhagen and Cancun has been slow, little is demonstrated to be "new and additional", there is no finance pledged for 2013, and $100 billion pledged for 2020 is inadequate and fails to state how much will be from public sources. There is, consequently, still much progress required on finance.

A successful Durban Conference will ensure clarity on the sources and scale of finance going forward. It will operationalize the Green Climate Fund with legal personality, an independent secretariat and adequate initial capitalization under the authority of the Conference of the Parties.

It will also put in place a common reporting format and an assessed scale of finance contributions for developed countries. And it will operationalize the Standing Committee on Finance to ensure greater coherence on global climate finance. In Panama, Parties should seek to make substantial progress on these issues, as the basis for success in Durban.

Leadership anyone?

Annex I countries must radically increase ambition by agreeing a science-based aggregate target, comparable individual efforts, and appropriate sources and scale of finance.

They must:

  • Increase the ambition of their mitigation commitments;
  • Tighten accounting rules and methodologies to eliminate loopholes; and
  • Expand finance, technology and capacity commitments to developing countries.

Failure to do so risks a major failure of leadership. In Panama, all Parties should recognize the major failings in Annex I mitigation ambition, and explore ways to close the mitigation gap.

Benchmarking success

Ultimately, success in Durban must be measured against the objective of the UN Climate Convention. Are we on track to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system? And will this be done in a time frame that protects ecosystems, food production, access to water, and enables sustainable societies?

Measured by this yardstick, negotiations remain blatantly off track. A UNEP report confirms that countries' pledged emission reductions are too weak to avert dangerous climate change, and could cause warming up to a catastrophic 5°C. Warming in Africa and other large land-masses would occur at much higher levels, heralding impacts not experienced in the history of human civilization.

Indeed, current levels of warming have already begun "triggering" major "tipping points" in the Earth system - such as Arctic methane, Amazon dieback or loss of icesheets - with 2°C of warming threatening to trip a cascade of events that cause warming to spin out of control. In fact, warming "beyond 1°C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage", the UN Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases concluded already back in 1986.

Success in Durban

Urgent action is required if we are to stabilize the Earth's climate system and protect all of our earth's ecosystems and peoples. This must go beyond "measuring, reporting and verifying" mitigation commitments. It requires scaling up the ambition of those commitments. To avoid collision with nature's boundaries, we have to change course, and not merely measure, in increasingly minute detail, the rapidly narrowing distance to catastrophe.

To secure success in Durban, all countries should follow the bargain struck in Bali. They should maintain the existing rules - including provisions on transparency and compliance under the Kyoto Protocol - and lift up the standard of other countries (including the United States) through new negotiations under the Convention. Developed countries are to honor their long-standing, but largely unimplemented, obligations to enable adaptation and provide substantial financial and technology transfers.

To ensure success in Durban developed countries should stop moving the goalposts and play by the rules. They should fulDill their second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, and honor and build on the strengths of the existing climate regime reflected in the UN Climate Convention.

Third World Network October 10, 2011

TWN Panama Update No. 15 10 October 2011

Developing countries forge new alliance to save climate regime

Geneva, 10 October (Meena Raman) -The African Group, the Least Developed Countries and the ALBA group of countries launched an alliance in Panama City on the side-lines of the climate talks to "save the climate regime and ensure success in Durban" at the forthcoming meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At a joint-press conference held on the 7 October, news of the alliance was announced. The African Group, a grouping of 53 African countries was represented by Mr. Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the LDC Group comprised of 48 countries was represented by Mr. Pa Ousman Jarju of Gambia and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Americas (the ALBA Group) comprised of 8 countries was represented by Venezuela's climate envoy, Ms. Claudia Salerno Caldera.

Mr. Mpanu Mpanu said that the groups had come together to enshrine their unity in making Durban a successful COP and to address the core issues that united the groups. Ms. Caldera said that their unity was for achieving a common goal to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention in saving humankind, the planet and mother earth. She said that the groups came together in response to the Panama climate change meetings and to ensure progress in the negotiations in good faith. Mr. Ousman Jarju of Gambia referred to the 'Statement of Common Position' adopted by the 3 groups and highlighted some specific aspects. He said that cooperation was necessary for Durban to strengthen a science-based and fair outcome for the climate regime and reiterated that the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol constituted the fundamental global legal framework on climate change.

He said that the negotiations must produce two outcomes in Durban in line with the Bali Roadmap, for an agreed outcome to implement the Convention and a second and subsequent period of the Kyoto Protocol. These outcomes must be ambitious, balanced and based on science, equity and the rule of law. All actions or measures related to climate change must be in full conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention, in particular those of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. He said that it is imperative that developing countries work in unison to advance a strong common position to ensure the realization of the shared objectives and for the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.

On the state of play of the negotiations, Mpanu said that two major gaps had to be addressed in relation to mitigation and finance. On the mitigation gap, he said that there was need to decrease emissions by 12 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent by 2020, if the temperature is to stabilise at 2 degree C. Developing countries are contributing to a reduction of about 5 gigatonnes while developed countries to only a 4 gigatonne reduction, showing that developing countries were doing quite a lot.

On the finance gap, he said that developed countries had promised fast start financing (of USD30 billion between 2010 to 2012) but this has not been fast nor has it started. On longterm finance, the USD 100 billion per year by 2020 as agreed to in Cancun was just the floor as a lot more was needed, including for adaptation. There is need to know what will happen between 2013 and 2020, he added. He also stressed the need for a decision under the Kyoto Protocol for a second commitment period and that Durban must not become the graveyard for the Kyoto Protocol.

Mpanu also expressed concerns that the negotiations in Panama advanced on the issue of mitigation but there has been no progress on finance. It was important to adopt an agreement in Durban and that there was no need for standing ovations but for developed countries to show good faith and leadership in the negotiations, he said further. On the negotiations in Panama, Ousman Jarju said that at the beginning of the week, there was foot-dragging on the part of developed countries in relation to the finance issue, but the G77 and China was able to send the right signals to ensure that there were negotiating texts on the table. He reiterated that without a commitment by Annex 1 Parties to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol in Durban, it will be hard for progress under the Convention and he hoped developed countries realized the implications of their position in this regard.

TWN Panama Update No. 18 13 October 2011

Developing countries remain firm on the Kyoto Protocol

Geneva, 13 Oct (Lim Li Lin) -- The final plenary of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) in Panama City on 7 October heard strong statements by developing countries on the importance of adopting the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in Durban.

Developed countries, meanwhile, stressed on a new climate change framework and on the continuity of the market mechanisms. The session in Panama City was the final negotiations before the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) in December in Durban, South Africa.

At the start of the plenary, the AWG-KP Chair, Adrian Macey from New Zealand, summarized that over the week, the contact group had discussed policy issues including the nature of the second commitment period, that a number of Annex I (developed country) Kyoto Parties have indicated that they will not undertake quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELROs) in a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, and the continuity of the market mechanisms after 2012.

[In fact, developing counties have insisted that the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period must be adopted in Durban, through an amendment to its Annex B as mandated. Developing countries have also questioned why the Protocol's market mechanisms should continue post 2012, in the absence of a second commitment period starting in 2013.]

A revised proposal by the Chair to facilitate negotiations was issued at the end of the meeting, "streamlining, clarifying and updating" the text based on the work of the spin-off groups during the week. The Secretariat produced a table of possible QELROs, through a technical exercise of converting the emission reduction pledges of Annex I Parties into QELROs as required under the Kyoto Protocol. Japan, Canada and Russia asked for their QELROs to be removed from that table, as they do not intend to undertake a second period of emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Chair concluded that it was the strong wish of Parties to complete the AWG-KP work in Durban, and that many parts of the text are complete technically and await a political decision, although there is still some technical work to be done, including on land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). He stressed on the need for effective time management in Durban, and on the usefulness of the time allocated to the AWG-KP in Durban.

Ambassador Diseko from South Africa, which will be the President of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the CMP when it is held in Durban at the end of the year, said that their primary goal was to ensure that Panama produced a negotiating text for Durban. She said that global problems require global solutions, and re-affirmed South Africa's belief in multilateralism. Central to the Durban package is the balance across the two negotiating tracks, the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA (Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention), and the balance within the negotiating tracks, she said. The Cancun decisions must be operationalized, and there should be a focus on key political issues, of which the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period is central, she said.

Argentina, speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said that two weeks ago, G77 and China Ministers re-affirmed their political commitment to the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period. It said that the second commitment period is the central priority and cornerstone for Durban, and any other result will undermine the rules based system, and cast a shadow on multilateralism. In accordance with the Bali Road Map (adopted by the UNFCCC COP in 2007), the AWG-LCA has to advance in parallel to the AWG-KP. This is the only way for a successful, comprehensive and balanced outcome in Durban based on the principles of the UNFCCC, in particular equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, it said. There should be no gap between the commitment periods, and the level of mitigation ambition by developed countries must be raised, it added.

Grenada, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that the Kyoto Protocol is the only legally binding agreement that we now have that puts in place quantified emission reduction commitments by Annex I Parties, and it is essential to build upon it. Failure to secure ambitious emission reductions in a second commitment period will compromise the survival of small island states and other vulnerable countries, it said. It asked the three Kyoto Parties that have announced that they will not take on QELROs in a second commitment period to reconsider "what might be viewed as extreme positions", as there should be no technical impediments, only political ones. [The 3 Parties are Canada, Japan and Russia.]

It said that its expectations for Durban are: 1) a substantial increase in mitigation ambition from Annex I Parties, 2) establishing a second commitment period from 2013-2017 with a single legally binding base year of 1990, as part of a two track outcome that complements a legally binding outcome under the AWG-LCA, 3) closing loopholes - LULUCF, surplus assigned amount units (AAUs), new gases, and improving mechanisms, and 4) ensuring the continuity of the Kyoto Protocol commitments through 2012, with new and more ambitious Annex B commitments pending ratification and entry into the force of the second commitment period.

Democratic Republic of Congo, for the African Group, said that agreement to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol is absolutely essential, and ensuring the full implementation of the Kyoto Protocol through a second commitment period in Durban has also been emphasized by all African Ministers as an utmost priority. For Durban, deep and binding emission reductions in accordance with science and equity is required, it said.

The African Group's expectations for Durban are the adoption of an amendment to Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol (for the second commitment period) and the strengthening of Annex I Party commitments in a manner consistent with their fair contribution towards limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It said that, "Africa cannot conceive of a future climate regime in which we dismantle a central pillar we have built together. We must build the rest of the climate regime up around it, and continue the Kyoto Protocol through a second and subsequent commitment periods".

Gambia, on behalf of the least developed countries (LDCs), stressed on the importance of a legally binding framework. The Kyoto Protocol must continue, and the second commitment period urgently agreed in Durban in order to avoid a gap as agreed in Cancun, and according to the decision that established the AWG-KP six years ago, it said. It urged those Parties that championed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and after to take up the mantle once again. Environmental integrity should be ensued through limiting the carbon markets and closing loopholes. It said that in order to break the logjam, the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period is key towards ensuring a legally binding agreement under the AWG-LCA that is in accordance with equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. It could not accept political decisions in either negotiating track.

Bolivia, on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), said that it was shameless the way that more conditions and flexibilities are being required by Annex I Parties to comply with what they should be doing by law. It said that it was building alliances with all countries, particularly the LDCs, and that it could not accept making the African continent the tomb of the Kyoto Protocol.

China said that developed countries have an unshakable legal, historical and moral obligation to renew the Kyoto Protocol through a second commitment period, and that the outcome of Durban must be based on the Bali Roadmap.

South Africa said that the Kyoto Protocol is central to the multilateral rules-based system. Failure to reach agreement on the second commitment period would send a negative signal to the process; instead we should send a strong signal to the world that the UNFCCC is still relevant. The Kyoto Protocol may not be sufficient, but it is necessary, it said.

Papua New Guinea for the Coalition for Rainforest Nations said that it had made a proposal for a REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) plus mechanism for results based action with units creditable under the Kyoto Protocol, as there is not much progress in the AWG-LCA on new market mechanisms.

Australia, speaking for the Umbrella Group, said that the Kyoto Protocol is an important part of efforts to reduce emissions. Its rules and infrastructure have much to offer as we transition to a new climate change framework, it said. It is only one part of the story, as without major emitters, we cannot deliver. Without a balancing agreement that covers all major emitters, it makes no sense for the climate, it said. It stressed on the importance of the continuity of the market-based approach, which is the keystone of new regime, and urged for political next steps, courage, and pragmatism.

The European Union said that balance across and between both negotiating tracks is important. It said that it was encouraged with the discussions on a future legally binding framework and legal form (in the AWG-LCA), and this will require deeper political attention. It stressed on the need for market mechanisms post 2012 and that new mechanisms should be part of the Durban package. It advocated the establishment of a post 2012 rules based and comprehensive legally binding framework engaging all major economies, and said that it was willing to consider a second commitment period as part of a wider global and comprehensive outcome.

Two recent reports show that substantial progress has been made by member states in breaking the link between economic growth and emissions, it said. Since 1990, it has reduced its emissions by 15.5%, while its economy grew by 41%. However, the EU alone cannot solve the climate problem, and the Durban outcome must address this fact, it said.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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