Two weeks of discussions at the 17th annual Conference of the Parties (COP17), which ran through Friday and Saturday nights, resulted in sleep-deprived negotiators attending numerous closed meetings and missing flights. These groups have been disappointed by the outcomes, and the consequences that will be shouldered by developing nations, especially those in Africa.
Agreeing to a second commitment period to the Kyoto protocol (excluding major emitters such as the US and China); the establishment of the Green Climate Fund; the launch of a road map towards a global climate accord that would include all major emitters of greenhouse gases implementable by 2020, are simply not enough, they say.
“Delaying real action until 2020 is a crime of global pro-portions,” said Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International.
“An increase in global temperatures of 4ºC, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apart-heid, whereby the richest 1 percent of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99 percent.”
Pablo Solón, former lead negotiator for Bolivia, said it was false to say that a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol had been adopted.
The actual decision, he said, had merely been postponed to the next COP, with no commitments for emission reductions from rich countries.
“This means that the Kyoto protocol will be on life support until it is replaced by a new agreement that will be even weaker.”
Oxfam spokesman Ben Grossman-Cohen said that negotiators had narrowly avoided a collapse, agreeing to the barest minimum deal possible.
“The plan gets the Green Climate Fund up and running without any sources of funding, preserves a narrow pathway to avoid 4º of warming and gets a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol without key members,” he said.
Celine Charveriat, director of campaigns and advocacy for Oxfam, said negotiators had 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 two degrees.”
She said an important page was turned on discussions of the legal form of a future agreement with the EU, US, Brazil, SA, India and China merging towards a common understanding.
“But after weeks of obstruction from the US, negotiators were unable to identify any concrete and reliable sources of money to fill the Green Climate Fund or ensure that new deeper targets for emissions cuts will be forthcoming.”
Brazil, SA, India and China could have been bolder by joining a coalition of ambition with the EU and vulnerable countries to push for greater and faster emission reductions, she said
Samantha Smith, leader of World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF’s) global climate and energy initiative, said that the job of governments was to protect their people, but they had failed to do that.
“But it is clear today that the mandates of a few political leaders have outweighed the concerns of millions, leaving people and the natural world we depend on at risk. Catastrophe is a strong word, but it is not strong enough for a future with 4º of warming.
“The bottom line is that governments got practically nothing done here and that’s unacceptable,” said Smith.
Tasneem Essop, head of international climate change strategy and of WWF’s COP 17 delegation, added: “While negotiators and ministers were sitting behind closed doors, they weren’t hearing the people’s call, made by faith leaders, youth, women in protests and demonstrations, inside and outside the venue, to act with urgency. These people, including WWF, are going home and will hold them accountable.”
Head of Greenpeace International Kumi Naidoo said that global climate regime amounted to nothing more than a voluntary deal that had been put off for a decade.
“This could take us over the 2º threshold where we pass from danger to potential catastrophe. Our atmosphere has been loaded with a carbon debt and the bill, carrying a Durban postmark, has been posted to the world’s poorest countries, especially here in Africa.”
Janet Redman, of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said: “What some see as inaction is in fact a demonstration of the palpable failure of our current economic system to address economic, social or environmental crises.
“Banks that caused the financial crisis are now making bonanza profits speculating on our planet’s future. The financial sector, driven into a corner, is seeking a way out by developing ever newer commodities to prop up a failing system.”
The president of this year’s COP17, SA International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, was of a different view, calling the outcome “a breakthrough”.
“We have taken crucial steps forward for the common good and the global citizenry today.
“I believe that what we have achieved in Durban will play a central role in saving tomorrow, today,” she said.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, said that countries, citizens and businesses that had been behind the rising global wave of climate action could now push ahead confidently.
“Durban has lit up a broader highway to a low-emission, climate resilient future,” she said.