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Durban Climate Conference a Symbolic or Real Success?

indsendt 23. jan. 2012 03.38 af Karen Blincoe

Key to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP17, in Durban last November was creating a long-term post-Kyoto climate policy regime as the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. A decision was finally reached, spearheaded by the EU Climate Action Commissoner Connie Hedegaard, committing all parties to develop a new universal legally binding framework to be concluded in 2015 coming into force by 2020.

AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States, and LDCs, Least Developed Countries along with many NGOs consider the outcome of Durban too little, too late. Scientific evidence indicates that global emissions need to peak before 2020 to limit a climate-induced temperature rise of only 2 degrees. But in order to bring on board the more reticent countries, India and China as well as the US, compromise was necessary.

Although the agreement reached at Durban is in effect putting off making the hard decisions, it does represent a strong symbolic breakthrough. Quibbles about recognising common but differentiated responsibilities (developed countries carrying the greatest burden due to past majority emission outputs) are still present. But as developing countries, led by China, are estimated by 2020 to be responsible for around two thirds of global emissions, the balance of responsibility will change. Leading, hopefully, to more inclusive action on climate change mitigation in the future.

On the positive side Durban signifies not the end but rather the beginning of a new, proactive phase in international climate policy - potentially resulting in a legally binding framework with ambitious emission reduction targets. On the negative side words of agency still outweigh actual action; leaving some vulnerable parties still vulnerable to the early impacts of climatic change.

What happens in the next three years, culminating in 2015, will show whether there is any meat on those words.


EU Commission for Climate Action

The Guardian newspaper

IISD, International Institute for Sustainable Development


COP18 is planned to take place in Nov/Dec 2012 in Doha, Qatar. See