Australia: Explaining the Durban Platform: what lies ahead for global climate change action?

Last Updated: 24 March 2012
Article by Brendan Bateman

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations held in Durban last November resulted in a suite of decisions, including an "agreement to agree" to develop a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol which legally binds all parties to the UNFCCC. This is a milestone for international climate change negotiations setting the challenge for the international climate change negotiations and mapping out the future of global climate change action, at least as far as 2020.

Qatar will host the next round of UNFCCC climate change negotiations – the 18th Conference of Parties (COP18) to the UNFCCC and the Eighth Conference of Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP8) – from November 26 to December 7, 2012.

So, what was decided at COP17/CMP7 in Durban and what lies ahead for the COP18/CMP8 in Qatar and beyond?

The Durban Outcomes

COP17/CMP7 in Durban resulted in over 36 decisions. The following three key outcomes are significant in maintaining the momentum and continuity of international climate change negotiations:

The Durban Platform

Crucially, there was a unanimous decision to agree to a successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol.

Parties negotiated a day and a half over time to agree to "develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties." Partly due to resistance from India and the US, the form and content of this future legally binding agreement was not set; whether it will be another protocol, a treaty or take some other form and whether it will set binding targets or require voluntary pledges is the detail to be explored over the next four years.

In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, under the successor agreement there will be a common legal framework for developed and developing countries. It is substantially for this reason that the US and China are on board. Canada, Japan and Russia are also committed to the adoption of the successor agreement, despite having withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol at Durban.

The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action will commence work in 2012 and complete its work "as soon as possible", but no later than 2015, for the adoption of the successor agreement at COP21 and its commencement in 2020. Planning work will commence in early 2012 to address issues such as mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, transparency of action, and support and capacity-building.

Kyoto Protocol second commitment period

In the meantime, the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire on 31 December 2012, now has life until 31 December 2017 or 2020, depending on the progress of the negotiation of its successor. Critically, its constituent institutions, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, will continue to operate.

Signatories did not commit to further targets under Kyoto, but rather, will make national voluntary pledges during the second commitment period. Annex 1 parties (developed nations) are to submit their emission reduction objectives by May 2012. This means that a new level of ambition in the form of legally binding targets may not eventuate until 2020.

Green Climate Fund (GCF)

The GCF was designated the operating entity of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC and its design was agreed.

The GCF is a $100bn/year by 2020 fund established to support all developing nations and least developed nations (especially those which are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change) achieve adaptation and mitigation measures, technology development and transfer (including carbon capture storage), capacity building and the preparation of reports. The GCF will work closely with other UNFCCC bodies, such as the Adaptation Committee and the Technology Executive Committee to support enhanced action on these issues.

The GCF will distribute money by loans and grants and they may employ results based financing methods and make incentive payments. One major contention about the GCF is that the source of its funding is unclear. What we do know is that this funding will come from developed nations as well as public, private or alternative sources. A proposal to generate capital from international shipping levies was opposed at Durban. 2012 will see a governing board and home selected for the GCF, as well as decisions regarding sourcing the fund.

Other outcomes included agreement on:

  • Improved transparency and better monitoring, reporting and verification of countries' emissions reduction actions;
  • Progressing the REDD-plus mechanism (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries);
  • New market mechanisms to drive opportunities for low cost greenhouse gas abatement;
  • An Adaptation Committee to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change; and
  • Rules for a new technology mechanism to speed up transfer of low pollution technologies to developing countries.

Future challenges for UNFCCC negotiations

Durban may have set the tone, and a goal, for the future UNFCCC negotiations; however, these will not be without their challenges.

Specifically, the challenges posed by the Durban outcomes include:

  • The science: According to current science, voluntary pledges under the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period are insufficient to stave off predicted dangerous and irreversible levels of global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that a temperature increase limited to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius with a peak of emissions by 2020 is necessary to keep global warming under control. Under current UNFCCC commitment levels, a change of 4 degrees Celsius is likely. The Durban Platform decision makes express reference to this emissions gap, noting it "with grave concern".
  • Commitment hiatus: The delay in the commencement of a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol and its second commitment period comprising national voluntary pledges means that it is probable that emission targets will not be set until 2020, if at all. That Canada, Japan and Russia now stand with the US outside the umbrella of the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period, having withdrawn to avoid penalties for failing to meet their targets to reduce overall emissions, raises further concerns about international commitment levels.
  • Legal form: in order for consensus to be reached on the Durban Platform, the description of the successor agreement was crafted in such a way as to be acceptable to all parties, particularly to India, who insisted on the agreed, watered-down terminology. This drafting may compromise the effectiveness of the successor agreement. Given past experience, it is to be expected that considerable energy will be expended in defining the legal form of the agreement before any substantive progress is made on the detail.
  • The fine print: It will be a monumental challenge to design an instrument that reflects and supports different kinds of effort and ambition in a common framework. Agreeing on targets will also be difficult and will involve governments factoring in responsibility for historical emissions, current heavy emitters, emission cuts to date, populations, capacity and capabilities (eg. those nations with forests, those hit more heavily by climate change, those with economic or geographic constraints on using more efficient power and those whose priorities lie with eradicating poverty). The EU indicated at Durban that it is ready to raise its level of ambition by 30%, but that it will not do this alone. The level of ambition committed to under the successor agreement and the closure of the emissions gap is critical in reducing the effects of climate change.
  • US commitment: That the US agreed to the Durban Platform is significant, especially considering its refusal to sign Kyoto. The US electoral cycle is expected to influence how the negotiations on the Durban Platform pan out, with a Republican government expected to favour voluntary pledges over binding targets.
  • Finance: Although the form and design of the GCF is now established, the source of its funding remains unknown.


The next COP18 will be in Doha, Qatar in late 2012. South Korea will host a ministerial meeting to prepare for COP 18/CMP 8 in order to clarify the central issues in the weeks before this conference.

Both Qatar and the Republic of Korea have committed to make joint efforts to globally promote and implement the "green growth agenda" at and in the run-up to COP18. This is a policy focus of environmentally sustainable economic progress to foster low-carbon, socially inclusive development for the Asia and Pacific region.

At COP17 in Durban, Qatar also promoted progressing UN climate change negotiations and supporting the mitigation and ambition efforts of developing nations, in particular small island developing nations.

Qatar, despite its profile as an oil-rich nation and major energy exporter and CO2 emitter, is becoming a focal point for sustainability and innovation within the Gulf Cooperation Council. Qatar hosted the carbon neutral World Petroleum Congress in December 2011 and has made robust investments in green building and solar technology.

This article was first published in the Qatar Business Review, Feb - Mar 2012

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.