Durban to Yield “Incremental Steps”, not “Comprehensive and Binding Agreement”
by Chris Bisson
Some of the most powerful people in the world have arrived in Durban, South Africa with the hope of coming to an agreement to solve the current and impending climate crisis. Yet as so much is needed in order to avert the crisis, the highest office of international government has declared that outcomes of COP17 must be realistic. In the high level opening plenary of the COP17/CMP7 today the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said that a “comprehensive and binding agreement may not be possible at COP17”, however there are “incremental steps” that can be taken.
Moon highlighted four outcomes that are needed from COP17. First, the Cancun Agreement must be operationalized, with special attention to the immediate needs for the Adaptation Framework to get working. Second, short-term and long-term financing needs to be solidified, especially regarding the Green Climate Fund. Third, parties need to consider recommitment to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol, which despite – as Moon identified as inadequate, is the best available response to climate change. Finally, Durban must produce the start of a legally binding agreement to carry forward to Qatar for COP18 next year.
South African President Jacob Zuma also addressed plenary calling for countries to think beyond their own national interests to think about the interests of all humanity. He further echoed the call of Moon for immediate and legally binding elements for future negotiations.
This call for incremental steps was later challenged by the President of Nuaru Sprent Jared Dabwido who was representing 14 island nation states. He identified that small-island states are at the front lines of climate change and that the time for incremental steps ended years ago, and that now is the time for great strides.
The presidents of developing countries – mostly from Africa – continued to address plenary. As the ministers and ambassadors of rich countries looked on, the call from poor countries for common but differentiated responsibility was echoed from one president and prime minister to another. Canada, one of the greatest climate culprits for its open policy of negotiating for the Alberta tar sands at COP17, seemed weary to the call. After the address of Central African Republic, the Canadian delegation got up and left only minutes before President Tuilaepa Malielegaoi of Samoa emphasized the imperative of Annex I nations to prevent the disappearance of countries like his island home.