links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on December 11th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

As per the UNFCCC website: The United Nations Climate Change Conference, Durban 2011, brought together representatives of the world’s governments, international organizations and civil society. The discussions sought to advance, in a balanced fashion, the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action Plan, agreed at COP 13 in 2007, and the , Cancun Agreements, reached at COP 16 last December.

In Durban’s COP 17  of the UNFCCC – according to fair weather forecasters – a marathon UN climate conference approved on Sunday – December 11, 2011 – with an overtime two days – the DURBAN PLATFORM,  that according to the South African hosts, includes a roadmap towards an accord that for the first time will bring all major emitters of greenhouse gases under a single legal roof. If approved as scheduled in 2015, the pact will be operational from 2020 and become the prime weapon in the fight against climate change.

The UN Secretariat wants us to believe that Durban was a great success and the tremendous expense – financially and in terms of CO2 emitted by the 15,000 participants – was justified.

We did not post much about this meeting as we easily predicted that the two UNFCCC conferences – of 2010 at Cancun and 2011 at Durban – will not lead to advances beyond what was achieved at Copenhagen in 2009 – thus we stopped our count at COP15, and called the Cancun meeting as Copenhagen 2 and the Durban meeting as Copenhagen 3 – with the hope that these meetings will continue to shape an eventual global agreement that became possible thanks to President Obama, who went to Copenhagen via Beijing, and was able for the first time in the history of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, to convince the Chinese government to accept the responsibility of becoming an active participant. Yes – the results were still an incomplete but had to be fleshed out in future meetings with the understanding that the original Kyoto Protocol was dead.

Looking at the Durban Platform – the name of the Durban outcome – we say that the Copenhagen opening is still just that – only the opening to future decisions.

We are astonished that the UNFCCC offices in Bonn, as per the above first paragraph,  make reference to the meeting of 2008 in Bali and the 2010 meeting in Cancun, but somehow forgot to mention the Copenhagen meeting. What does this say about the UNFCCC?

The UNFCCC also does not mention that Canada, Russia, Japan, and New Zealand have announced in Durban that they are pulling out from the Kyoto Protocol at the end of the year – this and the fact that the US has never ratified Kyoto, and China has not moved yet to make measurable commitments, makes it obvious that KYOTO IS DEAD and any talk of extending it is really nothing more then so much hot air.


From the dispatches being released by the UN we will pick the one released by UNEP – this because we hold Mr. Achim Steiner in high esteem.
Please see:

“Climate Talks End With Hope for a New More Comprehensive Legally-Binding Agreement.”

Yes – HOPE for an agreement – but HOPE is not an agreement,  and honest Mr. Steiner – the former head of the Gland, Switzerland, based IUCN, continues via the UNEP press release –

“Significant Emissions Gap However Remains With Doubts on How it Will be Decisively Bridged by 2020 – the Kyoto Protocol to Continue-But Covers Only a Fraction of the Necessary Global Emissions…The key question of the Durban outcome is whether what has been decided will match the science and lead to a peaking of global emissions before 2020 to maintain the world on a path to keep a temperature increase below 2° Celsius.”

The honest answer is that postponing taking decisions is not a decision. Setting time for next meeting is also not a decision – agreeing to continue to talk makes for great tourism – and next stop will be in the country of the UN Secretary-General that will be thus the next beneficiary of this tourism largesse.

Mr. Steiner states further – “The Government of South Africa and the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change should be congratulated for what has been achieved, given the low expectations in the months and weeks before Durban,”

“Today the European Union and several other countries agreed to continue the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 if other governments, including major emitters from developed and developing ones, agreed to negotiate a new legally binding treaty with deeper emission reductions by 2015 to come into force afterwards.

The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol during this new negotiation phase means the provisions of this existing emission reduction treaty, ranging from emissions trading to the Clean Development Mechanism, will also continue providing some benefit to the climate and the ambitions of developing economies over the near term.”

All right – the Kyoto Protocol will continue with smaller participation until a replacement agreement can be forged.

Two additional topics were on the table and as well will continue to roll on:

(1) In Durban governments agreed to establish an Adaptation Committee and a process that will lead to the establishment of a Climate Technology Centre and Network with likely funding from the Global Environment Facility.

(2) a Yearly $US 100 billion (twice the size of the yearly World Bank disbursements)  to support developing countries by 2020 with a GREEN CLIMATE FUND (GCF) continues to roll on as well – but in these days of Global Economics Crisis – the money is not on the table yet.

No agreements were reached not only on the money sources, but even on the location of these institutions. The feeling is that above all there was a lack of trust in the negotiating partners.

The laque covered statements sound like this:

“We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come,”said  South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

“We have made history,” she said, bringing the hammer down on more than two weeks of sometimes fractious talks.”

The deal was welcomed by Brazil, one of the globe’s emerging economic powers.

“I am relieved we have what we came here to get. We have a robust outcome, an excellent text about a new phase in the international fight against climate change. It clearly points to action,” said Brazil’s climate envoy Luiz Alberto Figueiredo.


The European Union pushed for strong wording and the three biggest emitters the United States, China and India resisted.

“We’ve had very intense discussions, we were not happy with reopening the text, but in the spirit of flexibility and accommodation shown by all, we have shown our flexibility, we have agreed to the words you just mentioned and we agree to adopt it,” said India’s Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan. {sorry – but this alone means that the agreement was void of content – our editorial comment}

But environmentalists and small island states, which fear they literally could sink under the rising sea levels caused by climate change, have said it is still not strong enough.

So – what happened indeed?

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who co-chaired the UN’s high-level climate finance advisory group, echoed this sentiment, saying the debt crisis had underlined the fact that countries should look for funding both from public and private sources. He said it was “challenging but feasible” to mobilise the $100-billion needed but that the key to raising the funds would be to introduce a price on carbon.

It’s been suggested that the price of carbon be pegged at about $25 per tonne. Most of this could be incorporated into the national fiscus while a small percentage is channelled into climate finance.

That was fun – just think what the US can say about a carbon tax in this year of Presidential elections.

The Chinese delegation head Xie Zhenhua created a stir by saying China might be willing to sign a legally binding agreement for reducing emissions, post-2020 — if other countries keep their commitments, and depending on China’s state of development, and a laundry list of other pre-conditions.

“China is open,” Xie told reporters, sounding a world apart from the positions of fellow major polluters including the United States and Canada.

The United States, wants all polluters to be held to the same legal standard on emissions cuts, and China and India which want to ensure their fast growing economies are not shackled.

These stands led back to the old standstill but now it is given a target end by a prospective 2015 for negotiations 2020 to start inactment.

The Copenhagen US+BASIC seems to have broken up into a US, India, China group of which South Africa and Brazil took a tactical distance. Brazil perhaps aiming at replacing China as leader of the solid G77.

As before, the EU had no place at the table of those biggies.

The EU came down to Durban like a flock of fighting vultures rather then as a united power that can sit at the table of those biggies.

As I write this sitting in Vienna, I want to go on record that what I saw in Durban was an alliance of the European Archipelago with the group of Small Island States. It was indeed a Grenada led  AOSIS alignment with the 27 individual Member States of the EU that called for the UN LDCs (Least Developed Countries) and African States, to take away the fire from the old China and  G77 in their opposition to the major polluters of the US+BASIC group.

It seems to us that an enlargement of the Small Island Independent States with the inclusion of this European Archipelago of the rather small individual Europeans, will just not be able to come up with an effective platform.
To be effective there is a need is to have a forward looking strong United Europe in order to champion climate causes in wrestling matches with the biggest polluters at these Climate meetings. We are not impressed see
ing a battalion of European officials accompany 27 Ministers of Environment and other Nationals plus powerless transplanted EU officials whose role is totally unclear, hover around those conference halls and sending home reports of empty achievement. Yes – the Europeans were of positive complexion in Durban, but the resulting PLATFORM they fought for is Flat.

Next, and probably last chance to do something about Climate Policy is available at the RIO + 20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro – June 2012 – let us not waste it as well.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article