Monday, May 4, 2015

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COP 17

Latest from Durban

Hastily ratified in the final hours of COP17, the Durban Package will dictate the future of climate change efforts.

Major stakeholders at COP17 are looking to push the much-needed review of the Kyoto Protocol to 2020.

China appears to hold the key to the negotiations, but does it want to reach an agreement?


Framing climate change only as a global issue fails to address its localised and specific effects, argues Andrea Nightingale.

South Africa exemplifies the problem of promoting economic development in tandem with climate change mitigation.

Degrees of Change

A video by Berkeley Earth

Key Players


Countries that are not committed to mitigating climate change at the level of national policy.


India, Brazil, South Africa and China

G77 group of 130 developing countries

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

The African Group

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

Annex 2

A sub-category of Annex 1: Countries who assume responsibility for historical emissions.


Australia, Austria,Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Economic Community, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

Annex 1

Countries committed to adopting national policies to mitigate the effects of climate change


Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, European Economic Community, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America

Negotiating Blocs

The annexes do not group countries into ready political units. When negotiating, countries tend divide into blocs split along different lines.

The African Group

Though many of these countries also belong to other negotiating blocs, these 53 African countries are united by poverty, lack of resources, vulnerability, and susceptibility to extreme weather events and desertification.

The Basic Countries

Basic Countries: the four large semi-developed countries, India, Brazil, South Africa and China compose the basic countries and are also all G77 members. These countries agreed in Copenhagen to form common positions, and even threatened to walk out of the negotiations if the developed countries would not agree to meet their bottom-line.

The Least Developed Countries

This group of 48 countries regularly works together to defend common interests, such as vulnerability and adaptation.

The Alliance of Small Island States

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a coalition of the states that are most threatened by global climate change and are calling for the most drastic climate change abatement action. These states drafted a protocol calling for a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by the year 2005 (otherwise known as the Toronto target). The AOSIS states have proved to be compatible political partners with environmental groups such as foundations for international environmental law and development (FIELD) and Greenpeace in attempting to catalyse international action on the climate issue. These groups have been able to supply scientific and technical legal expertise in support of the AOSIS states' negotiating positions.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), includes states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which are dependant on exports of fossil fuels. This group of states has resisted any controls on the emission of greenhouse gases by continually drawing attention to potential economic costs incurred by action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and may be said to constitute a 'veto' coalition in the negotiations (Porter and Brown 1991).

Their strategy has been to hold up negotiations as much as possible by referring to rules of procedure, disputing the minutiae of draft texts and fiercely resisting the input of environmental NGO's during the negotiations. These states have been in close contact with the fossil fuel lobby groups (chapter 5 of this book), which have assisted them by supplying strategic information and political support in the negotiations.

The Environmental Integrity Group

This group was formed in 2000 and comprises non-European Union developed country members. The coalition includes Mexico, Switzerland and South Korea, which share a desire to uphold the integrity of the climate change negotiations. This group arguably seeks a more progressive approach to that advocated by The Umbrella Group.

The Umbrella Group

The Umbrella Group is a loose coalition of non-EU developed countries that formed after the adoption of the Kyoto protocol. Although not an official grouping, they typically consist of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Norway and the United States. They tend to represent a more conservative approach amongst the industrialised countries, when it comes to agreeing on mitigation targets, especially the extension of the Kyoto protocol. It is speculated that several members of this group are unlikely to support an extension of the Kyoto treaty.

The European Union

The European Union is a group of 27 countries that presents unified negotiation positions and speaks in a united manner through its president. While it has a more positive attitude towards action on climate change than the US, there are notable divisions among the member countries.

Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian states have taken a far more forthright stance on the issues than the countries of southern Europe and Ireland (OECD 1994).

The Netherlands and Germany, for example have continually tried to impress upon the rest of the EU the importance of introducing a Europe-wide carbon tax, against the resistance of the United Kingdom (UK) and Southern Europe states (EC energy monthly, February 1996). There is to some degree a split between the countries of northern and southern Europe, with those in the north generally more able to act on the issues of climate change and those in the south, prioritising other policies. States such as Greece, Spain and Ireland have argued that they are entitled to a growth in emissions in order to reach a level of development enjoyed by other EU members.

The Group of 77 and China

This group is made up of 130 parties functioning as a bloc through out the UN system. They can be a determinative bloc when they act together, but they do not always act in sync. This group seeks to represent the priorities of developing countries. Most of the parties belong to other blocs. This diverse group consequently has some diverging priorities, for example the OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) states have a strong vested interest in maintaining a fossil fuel economy, versus the AOSIS (Association of Small Island States) and LDC's (Least Developed Countries) with completely different objectives.

Current Solutions

Biofuels may contribute to rural development but many complexities have to be addressed.

What changes can be made to reduce the effects of climate change?

Governments must stand firm in their support of carbon credits, argues Anthony Day.


Kyoto Protocol first commitment period ends


Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), meet in Crystal City, Virginia, November 2011, ahead of upcoming COP 17 negotiations in Durban, South Africa.

MEF: organization established in 2009 by the Obama administration to, "facilitate a candid dialogue among 17 major developed and developing economies to support progress in meeting the climate change and clean energy challenge globally"

Latest round of "candid dialogue" leads to both Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate action commisioner, and Todd Stern, the US climate envoy, to pronounce ahead of COP 17 that there is no hope for a legally binding global agreement:

"The good news is that there is a general recognition of the necessity of a legally binding agreement, the bad news is that no legally binding agreement deal will be done in Durban."

Connie Hedegaard

"I think that there are different views about the sort of degree of necessity, or not, of a legally binding agreement. Our view, in the US, is that it is not a necessary thing to happen right away (…) In a nutshell, our view is that it would have to include all the major players - China, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa,"

Todd Stern


COP 15 / MOP 5 -December 2009 - Copenhagen

Fails to achieve its stated goal of establishing a new global climate agreement from 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's first period of commitment ends.

COP 15 ends on a sour note, as the so-called Copenhagen Accord is negotiated behind closed doors between the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, sidelining the EU and dropping any reference to 1.5C targets, and removing the previous 2050 goal of 80% global CO2 cuts. The Conference of the Parties makes clear that it only "takes note" of the Copenhagen Accord, since it is negotiated outside of the normal UNFCCC process.


COP 16 December 2010, Cancun, Mexico

Similar failure to commit to any far reaching global, binding, emissions cut targets, resting instead on voluntary measures of individual countries.

However, a "Green Climate Fund", valued at $100 billion a year by 2020, is established to help finance the adaptation and mitigation strategies of developing countries.


First Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol starts


COP 13/ MOP 3, Bali, Indonesia

Bali Road Map adopted at COP 13/ Mop 3. Constituted by a number of progressive, future-orientated decisions that formalise all the necessary steps that need to be undertaken along the lines of a series of negotiating 'tracks'. Encompasses the Bali Action Plan, the promulgation of new negotiating structures that would breath new life into the Convention (UNFCCC).


COP 11/ MOP 1, Montreal, Canada

COP 11 serves as the site for the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol since 1997.

With over 10,000 delegates, this is the most expansive intergovernmental summit on climate change to date, out of which emerges the Montreal Action Plan, dedicated to expanding the Kyoto Protocol beyond its expiry date, and settle on more far reaching emissions cuts.


Kyoto Protocol comes into force 16 February 2005

Small print of Kyoto Protocol states under Article 25 that:

"This Protocol shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, (…) which accounted in total for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession."

It was not until 1994 that Russia was convinced to sign up. This is crucial participation given that America (36.1% of developed world carbon dioxide emissions) and Australia refuse to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol


COP 6 bis, Bonn, Germany

After the 2000 COP 6 in the Hague, Netherlands collapsed, due to fundamental differences of opinion surrounding the accounting of 'carbon sinks' and the financing of developing countries, it was decided that the parties to the UNFCCC would reconvene in COP 6 bis, in Bonn.

Although Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol, the US Congress failed to ratify it. By 2001 the Bush administration formalised the United States' non-participation, its delegation choosing to take on the role of observer at the meeting.

Despite this snub, significant progress is made in some measures. The financing of developing countries through three new funds is established. Flexible mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) are formed, permitting annex nations to substitute domestic emissions cuts for foreign carbon credits.


Kyoto Protocol - adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997, during COP 3

Kyoto Protocol "operationalises" the Convention (UNFCCC) by setting binding targets for Annex countries, and establishing the responsibility of Annex 2 countries to assist developing countries.


UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development), aka the "Earth Summit", Rio de Janeiro, June 1992. Produces the UNFCCC (United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change)

"Acknowledging that change in the Earth's climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind, (…) Noting that the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs"

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) UN 1992

UNFCC: provides provisions for regular updates - "protocols" for Meeting of the Parties to review progress, the effectiveness of adaptation and mitigation strategies taken by signatories.

As of May 2011, UNFCCC has 194 parties.

Case Studies

Climate change in Tanzania is increasing the impact of infectious diseases.

Solar power has huge potential in Africa but will local populations benefit?

South Africa stands firm on its controversial plan to expand its nuclear power generating capability.

Kenya's carbon exchange scheme may provide a distraction rather than a solution to sustainable development.

How can Africa learn from Australian solutions?

South Africa must address the effects of climate change and both its direct and indirect consequences.

Wider Themes

How do global and local solutions to climate change vary?

Tackling climate change requires individuals to take action as well as leaders, argues Piper Terrett.

There is a pressing need for an international legal mechanism for environmentally displaced people.