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Durban conference agrees roadmap to legally binding climate deal

The UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa in December 2011 ended with a decision to extend the Kyoto Protocol through a second commitment period, in return for a roadmap to a global legal agreement covering all parties for the first time. The new agreement will be adopted no later than 2015 and negotiations will begin early next year under the new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

Improved reporting and support for developing nations

A significantly advanced framework for the reporting of emission reductions for both developed and developing countries was also agreed, taking into consideration the common but differentiated responsibilities of different countries. In addition to charting the way forward on reducing greenhouse gases in the global context, governments meeting in South Africa agreed the full implementation of the package to support developing nations, agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico.

The conference agreed on implementation of the Green Climate Fund to deliver financial support to developing countries to reduce emissions and adapt to existing climate change. An Adaptation Committee of 16 members reporting to the COP will be established to improve the coordination of adaptation actions on a global scale. The Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Committee and a new Technology Mechanism will become fully operational in 2012. Decisions were also taken on how to measure progress and provide information on meeting environmental and social safeguards when tackling deforestation, as well as on considering climate and agriculture with a view to a decision next year.

While pledging to make progress in a number of areas, governments acknowledged the urgent concern that the current sum of pledges to cut emissions both from developed and developing countries is not high enough to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

A step forward in the fight against climate change

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne welcomed the commitment of the world’s leading economies:

“This is a significant step forward in curbing emissions to tackle global climate change. For the first time we’ve seen major economies, normally cautious, commit to take the action demanded by the science.

“The EU’s proposal for the roadmap was at the core of the negotiations and the UK played a central role in galvanising support. This outcome shows the UNFCCC system really works and can produce results. It also shows how a united EU can achieve results on the world stage and deliver in the UK’s best interests.

“There are still many details to be hammered out, but we now need to start negotiating the new legal agreement as soon as possible and there are still many details to be hammered out.”

A call for stronger action

The wide welcome for the roadmap towards a legally binding agreement was tempered by calls from campaigners for still stronger action, described by Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK:

“Governments have salvaged a path forward for negotiations, but we must be under no illusion – the outcome of Durban leaves us with the prospect of being legally bound to a world of 4C warming. This would be catastrophic for people and the natural world. Governments have spent crucial days focused on a handful of specific words in the negotiating text, but have paid little heed to repeated warnings from the scientific community that much stronger, urgent action is needed to cut emissions.

“Many countries came in good faith to seal a deal, but have been stymied by a handful of entrenched governments who have consistently resisted raising the level of ambition on climate change.

“The fight will not stop here. One crumb of comfort in Durban has been the emergence of a large coalition of high ambition countries, led by the most vulnerable nations and small island states, including many in Africa. It’s good that the UK and EU have aligned themselves with this coalition, but Europe must urgently convince the world that it is serious by increasing the ambition of its painfully weak emissions target for 2020 to at least 30% below 1990 levels. By doing so, the EU would actually benefit its own economy – saving billions on imported fossil fuels and creating the springboard for green growth and new green jobs.”

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The Durban conference was the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol. The next major UNFCCC Climate Change Conference, COP 18/ CMP 8, is to take place 26 November to 7 December 2012 in Qatar, in close cooperation with the Republic of Korea.

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