TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Nov11/06)
23 November 2011
Third World Network

Success in Durban a miracle, says Egyptian envoy
Published in SUNS #7266 dated 23 November 2011

Geneva, 22 Nov (Meena Raman) - Success at the Durban climate change conference would be difficult to reach, "short of a miracle or a last minute package coming down from a parachute", said Egypt's Ambassador at a meeting last week in Geneva.

Ambassador Hisham Badr, who is the Egyptian Ambassador to the UN/WTO and other UN organizations in Geneva, made these remarks while chairing a meeting organised by the South Centre on 16 November on "Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development".

Reflecting on the climate change negotiations in the run-up to the Durban conference under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which begins next week, Badr said that "the problem we are facing in the climate change negotiations is that there is a consistent and systematic attempt to dismantle the rules-based and science-based regime built over many years, and replace it with a bottom-up approach, pledge and review system."

"What is more disturbing is the attempt by developed countries, whose declared commitments now fall short of what science tells us, and do not rise to the level of responsibility and ambitions expected of them to achieve the target of 2 degrees (centigrade) temperature rise, and in fulfilment of the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, to try to rewrite the rules of the game.

"They want developing countries to take on legally binding mitigation commitments, hampering their development potential, and limiting their access to their fair share of atmospheric space. To make this acceptable, the north has given the green light to the creation of a number of empty shells, to make believe that in effect there are mechanisms that will deliver finance, technology, capacity-building, and adaptation support to developing countries.

"The disconcerting problem is that at a time [when] there is lax implementation of the Convention and of the Kyoto Protocol, the west is generally calling for the elaboration of yet another legally binding agreement, but this time in their words to cover ‘major emitters', a term which means primarily China, India, Brazil, South Africa, but in effect all developing countries to the exception of LDCs and small islands.

"The north wants to lock in its own low level of ambitions and weak mitigation commitments, preserve the carbon markets so it can continue to buy the right to pollute and to continue its current patterns of production and consumption, and force developing countries to transform their voluntary actions into legal commitments without agreeing to make support to them equally legally binding.

"Many would be surprised to learn that the total of emission reduction actions by developing nations in effect surpasses the commitments made by some developed countries and that in the case of the latter, they actually have loopholes that lead in the end to not making any actual reductions," he said.

"There are differing views as to the future of the international climate change regime. Developing countries want to preserve the current international architecture and fully respect the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. They all agree on the preservation of the Kyoto Protocol for second and subsequent commitment periods.

"The north generally sees the second commitment period as the last one and as a transition to a new regime altogether, not necessarily incorporating all the features of the Kyoto Protocol, only its carbon markets and maybe some of its rules but probably not the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, or may be a weakened version of that principle.

"The north has deliberately delayed the finalization of any agreement for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It is now offering what amounts to a political second commitment period, but asking in return for a clear mandate to come out from Durban for the negotiation of a new legally binding primarily mitigation agreement."

"In view of the limited time period between now and the commencement of the second commitment period, there is unlikely to be time for agreement on specific reductions per countries, nor time to agree on rules, nor for Parliaments to ratify. Hence, there is bound to be a gap between the first and second commitment period, and there will be necessity for provisional application of the political second commitment period," said Badr.

"At the same time, developing countries have clearly stated that their overriding priority is a second commitment period and are linking any progress on the other track on having a legal second commitment period. They also, or at least the majority among them, do not want to commit to a particular form in the other track until they know the content of the negotiations, and they affirm that in the event there is a move towards a new legally-binding agreement, the latter has to include all components, particularly finance, technology, capacity-building and adaptation, i.e. it should not be restricted only to mitigation."

On the issue of fast-start finance, Badr said: "In Copenhagen, some developed countries agreed to have $30 billion of fast start finance between 2009 and 2012 and to provide $100 billion annually to developing countries starting from 2020 for climate change. The problem is that the fast start finance was neither fast nor started, and that was definitely not new or additional, as estimates have indicated that only a small fraction of what was provided was actually new.

"As to the $100 billion, no specific ways were determined as to how they will be raised by developed countries. The current discussions even indicate that they represent a best effort target that developed countries would try to mobilize from all sources and that these resources will unlikely be from public sources in light of the current economic difficulties western countries face.

"The problem is that developing countries cannot in this case have the needed predictability nor can they rely on private sources which are solely guided by profit motives and commercial interests and which will unlikely ever fund adaptation activities which are much in demand in developing countries. All this makes success in Durban, short of a miracle or a last minute package coming down from a parachute, difficult to reach.

"How all this will end up is something nobody can predict. The only clear thing is that the result of Durban will have a major impact on the future and survival of the international climate change regime, as well as on the Rio plus 20 conference six months later. It will determine the faith countries and people put into multilateralism and in the United Nations as a vehicle for concerted collective actions to face global problems," concluded Badr.