TWN Info Service on Climate Change (May11/04)
30 May 2011
Third World Network

BASIC ministers outline work approach for Durban climate conference

Beijing, 30 May (Chee Yoke Ling) – Ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India and China in a joint statement on 29 May outlined a work plan required to achieve a “comprehensive and balanced outcome” at the annual United Nations climate conference that will take place in Durban, South Africa from 29 November to 9 December 2011.

The four developing countries (BASIC) share a climate coordination platform and met for the seventh time in South Africa in Zimbali, near Durban on 28-29 May. Durban will be the venue for the 2011 annual meeting of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol.

With the next negotiation session taking place on 6-17 June in Bonn, the ministers reaffirmed the centrality of the negotiations under the two UN treaties, “recognising that parallel and informal processes can also contribute to the formal negotiations in a supplementary manner, without however, undermining the transparent and inclusive multilateral process under the UNFCCC”.

The ministers said that the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UNFCCC and the 7th meeting of the Parties (CMP 7) to the Kyoto Protocol in Durban “must continue to work within the framework agreed in Bali, and in this context address the work programme agreed in Cancún, following the agenda agreed in Bangkok, with a view to complete the mandate of the Bali Road Map”. They also called for an additional negotiation meeting in September/October in view of the volume of work.

[The Bali Road Map has two main components: Firstly, the Bali Action Plan, which launched a negotiation process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision in 2009. Secondly, the negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol for the next commitment period of greenhouse gases emissions reduction by developed countries beyond 2012, also with the deadline of 2009.

[Failure to reach agreement led to the highly controversial and non-negotiated political document, the Copenhagen Accord, being "taken note of" by COP 15 in 2009. In Cancun last December, a number of decisions were adopted after another political process rather than the customary intergovernmental negotiations. Bolivia was the only Party that objected formally but the Mexican environment minister, Patricia Espinosa, as President of COP 16 proceeded to gavel a consensus.

[At the post-Cancun talks in Bangkok in April 2011 the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) was locked in difficult negotiations over the agenda of the meeting that was essentially about the work plan towards and at Durban. Developing countries rejected the selective draft agenda that they said did not hold true to the Bali Action Plan and finally an agenda was adopted based on a proposal of the Group of 77 and China. This agenda constitutes the work for the resumed talks in Bonn from 6 to 17 June 2011 and from there, to Durban. It was agreed in Bangkok that the agenda would address the “Preparation of a comprehensive and balanced outcome” to be presented COP 17 for adoption “to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action now, up to and beyond 2012”, pursuant to the results of the Bali and Cancun COP decisions and recognizing that the work of the AWG-LCA “includes both implementation tasks and issues that are still to be concluded...” See TWN Bangkok Climate News Update No.9 dated 11 April 2011: Agenda for working group on long-term cooperation adopted.] 

In their 29 May statement the ministers expressed strong support for the South African proposals for a transparent, inclusive preparatory process to ensure that Durban takes a major step forward in working towards the perspective of a comprehensive, ambitious, fair and effective outcome. They encouraged South Africa to explore with Parties in Bonn (at the June resumed talks) how this preparatory process could efficiently inform the negotiations.

The Ministers who participated in the Zimbali meeting were Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs (South Africa), Xie Zhenhua, Vice-Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (China), Liu Zhenmin, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs (China), Francisco Gaetani, Deputy Minister for Environment (Brazil), and JM Mauskar, Special Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (India). The incoming COP President, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane also attended. In line with the “BASIC-plus” approach, Argentina as chair of the G77 and China was invited to the meeting and was represented by J Fernandes.

The Zimbali meeting was the second BASIC ministerial meeting to take place since COP 16 in Cancun. The first meeting was convened in New Delhi, India in February this year where the ministers stressed that the Cancun Agreements "were not a substitute for the Bali Road Map" and thus, the latter "continues to be the template for future work" of governments (see TWN Climate Info dated 3 March 2011: BASIC countries reaffirm existing UN climate architecture).
In a 26 May media statement the South African Department of Environmental Affairs said that the BASIC meeting in Zimbali seeks to build on the discussions of the February meeting and inform the BASIC's strategy for the forthcoming UNFCCC meetings, and other strategic meetings such as the Major Economies Forum (MEF).
The BASIC Ministerial Coordination Meeting was preceded by the BASIC experts and negotiators meeting from 26-27 May. The experts subsequently made presentations to the ministers on a document on “a framework for equitable access to sustainable development” as requested at the New Delhi BASIC meeting.  This work will be refined and published, as a contribution to the body of scientific knowledge informing policy development. 

In discussing the work required to achieve a comprehensive and balanced outcome in COP 17 and CMP 7, the ministers considered the challenges and possible priority elements on the road to Durban. They reaffirmed their determination to constructively engage with others to develop an ambitious and realistic outcome, urging Annex 1 Parties (developed countries) to fulfil their commitments under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol and to demonstrate this in concrete terms.

In view of the constant attempts by major developed countries to retreat from the fundamental principles of and Annex 1 Parties’ legal commitments under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol as well as the multilateral decision making process, it was not surprising that the BASIC ministers once again reiterated clearly the centrality of the negotiations under the two UN treaties. The ministers in their statement recognised that “parallel and informal processes can also contribute to the formal negotiations in a supplementary manner, without however, undermining the transparent and inclusive multilateral process under the UNFCCC”.

The ministers emphasised that “the environmental integrity of the climate regime was of critical importance to all, particularly for developing countries that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change”. In this regard, they stressed that “unilateral approaches, such as the inclusion of emissions from the aviation sector in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme or establishing unilateral carbon accounting rules are inimical to multi-lateralism, and clearly not in line with the provisions and principles of the Convention, particularly the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Issues with regard to maritime and aviation emissions, agriculture and HFC’s should also be addressed in accordance with the provisions and principles of the Convention”.

With regards to the Kyoto Protocol, they said that the Protocol, including its multilateral definition of commitments and rules, is critical to environmental integrity of the climate change regime. Given that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will end in 2012, they expressed the view that the second commitment period is central to a comprehensive and balanced Durban outcome.

The ministers also emphasised that the perspective of developments under the UNFCCC, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, will depend first and foremost on the political willingness of all Annex I Parties to undertake commitments in an appropriate legal form. 

Recognising the urgent need to support developing countries in adaptation, particularly SIDS (Small Island Developing States), LDC’s (Least Developed Cuntries) and Africa, the ministers emphasised that the balance between adaptation and mitigation needs to be guaranteed. The costs of inactions are huge, and the impacts will be felt most by poor countries and communities. Adaptation should be as central to negotiations as mitigation, and this has to be reflected in the structures being designed for financial and technology transfer support, they said in the statement. 

The ministerial discussion also considered work by experts on the need for rigorous, robust and transparent accounting for finance by Annex I Parties. In their statement the ministers said that, “a common reporting format for funding must be considerably enhanced. This will require further work by negotiators and experts, in order to ensure that accounting for finance by all developed countries is consistent, complete, comparable, transparent and accurate.”

They identified the need for work on measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) at the expert and negotiator level. A proposal was made to consider the possibility of creating a fund between BASIC countries to stimulate research providing evidence on climate change issues. This analysis could be developed by institutions from BASIC countries and other countries from G77 and China, according to the ministerial statement.

On finance, the statement said that solutions on disbursement of finance are urgently required to enhance trust. The ministers were of the view that the UNFCCC Secretariat should publish information on funding already disbursed under fast-start finance provided by developed countries, since it is a commitment made under a multi-lateral agreement (referring to the USD 30 billion pledged by developed countries at the Copenhagen COP 15 for developing country adaptation and mitigation efforts through to 2012).

They also reiterated that the Transitional Committee (mandated to design the new Green Climate Fund that was agreed to in Cancun) should interact with, and be guided by the AWG-LCA. (See TWN Climate Info dated 29 April and 4 May 2011 for reports on the first meeting of the Transitional Committee.)

The ministers statement further emphasised the need for early operationalisation of all the institutions established in terms of the Cancun agreements, including the Adaptation Committee, the Technology Executive Committee, Centre and Network, the registry, the work programme on the Response Measure Forum and the Green Climate Fund.

They stated that the work programme on the road to Durban entails a high volume of work and heard a report from their negotiators that identified the need for 35 to 40 technical and operational decisions or guidelines under the COP and CMP.

They emphasised that a negotiating session in September/October is essential, and that it should include a short programme of the Subsidiary Bodies as a significant amount of work was mandated to these bodies in Cancun.

[The two permanent subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC are the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).]

They noted India’s submission of three items to be added to the provisional agenda of the COP – equity and sustainable development; trade measures and climate; mitigation, adaptation actions and IPR (intellectual property rights) technology. The ministers also noted the submission made by Saudi Arabia relating to the provisional agenda of the upcoming session of the SBI and SBSTA and stressed the importance of following the rules and procedures for the inclusion and removal of agenda items. They expressed their complete support for the programme and time-table for informal consultations by the incoming COP Presidency.

The ministerial statement concluded with a reaffirmation of the commitment of BASIC countries to continue working to strengthen the unity of G77 and China. Thery emphasized the importance of rebuilding trust and strengthening the multilateral system, and re-emphasised that an agreement on the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is absolutely critical for the success of the Durban Conference.

Brazil will host the 8th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change in August 2011.+