After two weeks of topsy-turvy consultations and negotiations at their 17th conference, the 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, finally adopted a package of decisions aimed at guiding global efforts to address the cause and impacts of global warming.
Tagged: “The Durban Platform for Enhance Action,” the two-page package features among others an agreement to establish a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) as well as the management – but not the source – of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a fund for climate aid to poor countries. The agreement requires that countries begin in 2012 to negotiate a new global regime for climate change. The new legal framework must be in place by 2015, and will be implemented from 2020.
Comments have however continued to trail the development, which many see as a step in the right direction. However, some quarters seem unimpressed.
Head of the Department of Climate Change (DCC) in Nigeria, Samuel Adejuwon, lauded the agreement, saying that it portends a lot of positives for the country.
He said, “The second commitment period (for the KP) is a plus because it allows us participation in CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) projects and hence will help in curbing our gas flaring and boost electricity generation. Invariably, more energy implies increased socio-economic development.
“Financially, Nigeria stands to benefit through project implementation. And the DP (Durban Platform) provides us with the opportunity to continue to engage our partners in future negotiations towards enhancing cc activities implementation.”
Executive Director, Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team (NEST) and Project Coordinator, Building Nigeria's Response to Climate Change (BNRCC), Chinedum Nwajiuba, spoke in a similar vein with Adejuwon, pointing out that the DP “keeps hope alive.”
His words: “Many persons did not expect any such agreements from the Durban meet. So this may not be what could be optimally attained but well above the pre-COP 17 pessimism.”
Climate expert and negotiator, Olukayode Oladipo, however appeared wary over the development, even as he called on the nation to explore alternative means.
He said, “I pray that we are going to translate our discussions in Durban to reality now that we are saddled with another five years of negotiating a new climate regime. I strongly believe that many developed countries will not keep to the minimal intent of the KP during this period of negotiation, which means we are back to Square One. Nigeria should just forge ahead and put in place means to tackle the problem for national sustainable development.”
Climate change advocate and Executive Director of SRADev Nigeria, Leslie Adogame, described the agreement as having fallen short of expectations.
He said, “This is a setback and a far-cry from what we expected and bargained for as a continent. Are we going to start another global climate regime in form of a new Protocol, or a legal instrument or be an agreed outcome with legal force; when people in developing countries particularly are dying daily from the obvious impact of climate change? This nullifies and confirms that not much progress has been made since the Cancun and Copenhagen era.
“We expected the conference to make major landmark on the Bali Plan of Action which still remains to date the key achievements so far. The developed countries were to meet up their financial obligations to the Fund such that its immediate operation will clearly balance the adaptation and mitigation projects for the interest of developing world like Nigeria. I was much concerned that all the promises and pledges of financial resources made in Copenhagen and Cancun have not been met. But now, a new goal post has been established and even widened.
“The Durban Platform was expected to make timely and concreted steps towards mitigation, finance, adaptation, technology development and transfer. These were the pillars of the Bali Action Plan since work and negotiations on all these have been progressing over the last four years. This obvious extension of the Kyoto Protocol beyond the end of 2012, the original set date, and even till 2020 another eight years’ times does not portends well for Nigeria and Africa at large.
“For me, Durban Conference should be seen as just one step along another long path. The only thing remarkable about the meeting was that a coalition of Small Island States, Least-developed Countries and the European Union were successful in pushing through an outcome about which the United States, China and India were, at best, lukewarm over the years.
“The future of the Kyoto Protocol remains bleak, especially considering the recent pull-out of Canada even just after the Durban meeting and more polluters like Japan and Russia are likely to follow the footstep of Canada. It calls for developing nations to take the future in their hands at this time. If the second commitment period can result in this, there would probably not be a third commitment period of 2020.
“For Nigeria, people are daily witnessing the impacts of these changes as a result of increasing occurrences of flood, erosion and desert encroachment in alarming and unimaginable scales, leading to challenges particularly in agriculture and health sectors. This unfortunate situation has led to social unrest and distortions in sustainable livelihood. The seriousness of this position was also remarked by the South African Minister for Environment during the Durban conference.
“The Nigerian government cannot afford to wait for the so-called $30 billion of Fast Track and $100 billion for 2012 to 2020 action for climate mitigation and adaptation that are likely not to be realistic going by the trend of things.
“Thinking globally but acting locally is the obvious take-home message that came out of Durban to all nations. With the completion of the Climate Change Commission Bill and National Policy Framework on Climate Change now in place, full-fledged climate change governance/regime should be institutionalised immediately in the country. The National Adaptation Strategy and Plans of Action (NASPA) on Climate Change for Nigeria should be budgeted for and funded through the National Climate Change Trust Fund. The time for lip service to climate change issues in Nigeria is certainly over for now.”
Director, International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development (ICEED), Ewah Eleri, said, “The agreement to push negotiations far into the future has done nothing to address the scientific certainty of increased global warming and disasters such as the floods in many parts of Nigeria. There is little evidence that an effective and legally binding agreement will be easier to reach in the future.”
Eleri, who is also Director of the Nigeria Climate Action Network (NigeriaCan), pointed out that even though some sort of progress was made on the establishment of the GCF, “the talks failed to identify any sources of new funding.
He added, “With no firm and effective measure to reduce the harmful gases that cause floods and droughts in Nigeria, and no commitments to provide financial resources for us to deal with them, the Durban Platform leaves Nigeria empty handed. Our government can only continue to place its hope on international negotiations alone to our detriment. Our future is in our hands.
“The NigeriaCan urges the Federal Nigeria Government to seize the moment. It is time to protect the Nigerian people from more frequent disasters such as droughts, floods, diseases and conflicts result from increasing global warming. A clear national action plan is needed. President Goodluck Jonathan must rise to the challenge. The coalition demands the immediate signing of the Bill to Establish the National Climate Change Commission.”
Reactions have likewise echoed globally for the DP.
Head of Africa Group, Topsi Mpanu-Mpanu, lamented, “It's a middle ground, and we meet mid-way. Of course we are not completely happy about the outcome as it lacks balance, but we believe it is starting to go into the right direction.”
UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, declared, “I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose, a long-term solution to climate change.”
European Union (EU) Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard’s words: “We think that we had the right strategy, we think that it worked. The big thing is that now all big economies, all parties have to commit in the future in a legal way and that's what we came here for.”
US Climate Envoy, Todd Stern: “In the end, it ended up quite well. The DP is the piece that was the matching piece with the Kyoto Protocol. We got the kind of symmetry that we had been focused on since the beginning of the Obama administration. This had all the elements that we were looking for.”
Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International: “Right now the global climate regime amounts to nothing more than a voluntary deal that's put off for a decade. This could take us over the 20C threshold where we pass from danger to potential catastrophe.”
Celine Charveriat, Oxfam: “Negotiators have sent a clear message to the world's hungry: 'Let them eat carbon.' Governments must bank the pennies won here in Durban and immediately turn their attention to raising the ambition of their emissions cuts targets and filling the Green Climate Fund. Unless countries ratchet up their emissions cuts urgently, we could still be in store for a 10-year timeout on the action we need to stay under 20C.”
Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Friends of the Earth International: “Ordinary people have once again been let down by our governments. Led by the US, developed nations have reneged on their promises, weakened the rules on climate action and strengthened those that allow their corporations to profit from the climate crisis.”
Mohamed Ado, Christian Aid: “This Durban outcome is a compromise which saves the climate talks but endangers people living in poverty. It is a disastrous, profoundly distressing outcome - the worst I have ever seen from such a process. At a time when scientists are queuing up to warn about terrifying consequences if emissions keep rising, what we have here in Durban is a betrayal of people across the world.”
UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has described the agreement as one representing “a significant and forward agreement that defines how the international community will address climate change in the coming years.”
According to him, the decision to launch a protocol or legal instrument applicable to all parties under the UNFCCC is essential for stimulating greater action and for raising the level of ambition and the mobilisation of resources to respond to the challenges of climate change. He said the agreement to establish a second commitment period of the KP would “increase certainty for the carbon market and provide additional incentives for new investments in technology and the infrastructure necessary to fight climate change.”
Ban Ki-moon lauded the fact that countries have reached decisions that will operationalise the Cancun Agreements, including a Technology Mechanism that will promote access by developing countries to clean, low-carbon technologies and an Adaptation Committee that will coordinate adaptation activities on a global scale.
He welcomed the GCF’s launch, which he said a number of countries have signalled their intent to bankroll.
“Taken together, these agreements represent an important advance in our work on climate change. I call on the Parties to quickly implement these decisions and to continue working together in the constructive spirit evident in Durban," he stated.
Director of Environment and Development at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Stewart Maginnis, opined that the Durban deal has breathed new life into climate change talks.
He noted, “We had anticipated that Durban would be where the developed world would raise the bar on their current ambitions and all countries would purposefully commit to the development of a credible roadmap for deep and wide ranging targets for the comprehensive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
“This has been achieved, and steps have been laid out for a new agreement to be put in place by 2015. A new spirit of compromise spanning the developed and developing countries is an encouraging step forward.”
He applauded the momentum that resulted in a second commitment period to the KP, urging Parties to the UNFCCC to move swiftly towards putting in place a new global agreement that has legal force, aiming to stabilise the world’s climate. Investments in the GCF, he added, should provide the necessary resources for countries to move ahead with efforts such as increased emphasis on building on what already works: the power of intact natural ecosystems.
Manginnis added, “Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation are cost effective, no-regrets solutions that governments ought to incorporate proactively into national policies and take immediate action to implement on the ground. Improving the management of river systems, coastal ecosystems, coral reefs, mangroves and forests, and dryland systems can conserve carbon and improve the resilience of communities to deal with both the sudden and long-term consequences of climate change.”