Tuesday 29 November - Day 1 (Cont.): Drumming up?

Drums beat and warriors danced at yesterday's opening ceremony (Monday). The new COP President, South Africa's International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane walked through the COP's agenda. Progress was less hesitant than at Copenhagen and Cancun with few parties seeking to intervene at an early stage.

The parties have been working under draft rules of procedure, and it was agreed that consultations would continue on this issue, with PNG noting its usual objection and calling for majority voting (see our blogs for Copenhagen and Cancun). Equally, it was not possible to formally agree the COP agenda, which itself has become contentious as a result of submissions by India in respect of accelerated access to critical mitigation and adaptation technologies and related intellectual property rights; equitable access to sustainable development; and unilateral trade measures (see agenda items 11, 12 and 13).

The UNFCCC Executive Secretary as part of her opening remarks highlighted two kinds of issues that require consideration. The first is operationalisation of the Cancun Agreements and covers areas such as:

  • making progress on adaptation,
  • finalising the technology mechanism,
  • agreeing the Green Climate Fund's governing instrument,
  • continuing progress on MRV, defining "the what and the how" of the review scheduled to conclude in 2015,
  • gaining more clarity on fast-track finance.

The other category is addressing key political questions that remain unresolved.

Priorities include discussions around a second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol in the context of a broader agreement, a pathway for mid-term finance (2013 to 2020) and reassuring the vulnerable.

All laudable issues, but all big asks

Parties moved on to opening statements. Opening of the negotiations were characterised not by the usual optimism and hopeful statements of intended progress, but rather by stark statements reflecting the deep (and historic) divisions between the parties.

EU delegations reached out to the private sector and gave a clear indication that agreement on the continuation of the KP was viewed as a precondition to any subsequent, legally binding deal involving all emitters. In sharp contrast, Canada, Russia and Japan have clearly indicated that each country will not agree to another Kyoto Protocol commitment period.

Late in the day, unconfirmed but credible news broke that the Canadian cabinet has taken a decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol later this year. In a reprise of long-familiar arguments, the United States, which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, also gave a clear signal that it will not commit to any new agreement unless all major emitters are party to such agreement and the rules are known well in advance of any specific emission reduction commitments being made. On the other hand, developing countries are reluctant to move forward on rules without certainty about commitments that are on the table. This kind of "cart before the horse" argument is entrenched. We also understand that the US has indicated that it will not agree to any new financial mechanisms unless and until the new rules of any new agreement are known.

Monday 28 November - Day 1

Hello and welcome to COP17.

Let's hope Sunday evening's weather was not a metaphor for the next two weeks of negotiations. Things were a bit stormy to say the least. Today however saw the dawn of a bright, sunshiny day.

The Durban facilities are scattered among a series of buildings in the city centre. The queues for entry early this morning were relatively quick. The effect of holding the conference downtown is that there is a bit of a buzz about both the conference facilities and Durban. There is none of the chaos of Copenhagen, nor much of the almost industrial efficiency of Cancun. The venue is intimate and concentrated. The streets around the International Conference Centre (ICC) are filled with a volunteer army dressed in green track suits. Occasionally the sound of Zulu war drums fills the air.

The COP plenary hall feels smaller than those at Copenhagen and Cancun, and the NGO "compound" at the back of the hall is typically crowded. The opening ceremony will be addressed by President Zuma.

In the halls, observers chat about prospects for COP. Much of the focus is on the EU's "roadmap" idea, where targets and actions might "sit" and "the future" of the Kyoto Protocol. The carbon markets community is clearly preoccupied by the idea of having greater certainty with respect to the market mechanisms, something which delegates, NGOs and the Secretariat, all seem to be taking seriously. There is also intrigue as to the implications of new COP agenda items relating to intellectual property rights, access to sustainable development and unilateral trade measures.

We will report back Monday's activities in tomorrow's blog.

Friday 25 November - Tanzania

Today we are publishing a short briefing on:

Scaling-up renewable energy in Tanzania

Mixed messages abound in advance of COP17 in respect of the importance of a new global treaty. We reported yesterday that UNEP had been calling for a tougher stance. Chris Huhne is also reported as having stated that "A global deal covering all major economies is not a luxury. It is not an optional extra. It is an absolute necessity."

However, a report released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, has indicated that electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass, drew $187 billion of investment last year, despite concern over international climate change policy. This could indicate that progress towards a low carbon future may be compatible with a "bottom up" approach being taken in the future. But to what extent would momentum for such investment stall in the absence of a move towards a new global treaty? And how important are other potential elements of such a treaty, such as a harmonised carbon accounting system and compliance mechanism?

Food for thought.

Thursday 24 November - And now to Nigeria

Today we are publishing a short briefing on:

Scaling-up renewable energy in Nigeria

The significance of next week's negotiations, and discussions over the likelihood of entering into a legally binding agreement any time soon, has been underlined by recent comments by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, who has been quoted as saying:

"Those countries that are currently talking about deferring an agreement [to come into force] in 2020 are essentially saying we are taking you from high risk to very high risk in terms of the effects of global warming. This is a choice – a political choice. Our role, working with the scientific community, is to bring to the attention of the global public that this is the risk that policymakers and governments will expose us to."

But will the Durban talks get off to a bumpy start after relatively plain sailing at Panama earlier this year? There are reports that diplomats from some developing countries may "occupy" the talks. Such bust-ups are nothing new to the negotiations - at Copenhagen there was at least one significant walk out of negotiators.

We'll report back next week!

Wednesday 23 November - REDDy for Durban?

As legal advisors acting across a range of initiatives and projects relating to REDD+, we are active participants in international negotiation forums - seeking to ensure that environmentally robust international mechanisms are deployed that can provide a substantive role for reputable long term investors. If you wish to discuss the prospects of this occurring and what it means for your business then please get in touch with the team in Durban.

View update on the latest position for REDD

We don't often refer to non-Norton Rose publications, but we enjoyed this snappy number by Jennifer Morgan and Edward Cameron at WRI, and hope they don't mind us hanging on their coat tails!

What to Aim For, and Expect, at the UNFCCC Climate Talks in Durban

Tuesday 22 November - DRC or Kenya anyone?

Expectations are being firmly managed down, not just for COP17, but for the prospects of a "global deal" being in place for many COPs to come. But how much should we be worried about this? To what extent does failure to agree at an international level deter investment in a low carbon future in developing countries?

Today we are publishing short briefings on two dramatically different African jurisdictions, DRC and Kenya. DRC seems to be making progress with the development of a REDD framework, which could have a significant impact on global emissions. Kenya is to be assisted by the Program on Scaling-up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries (SREP) and has already introduced feed-in tariffs for the support of some renewable energy technologies. Both jurisdictions would benefit from further injections of climate finance.

View the briefing Scaling-up renewable energy in Africa: DRC

View the briefing Scaling-up renewable energy in Africa: Kenya

Join us at our side event in Durban to discuss how to bridge the public / private sector divide for financing renewable energy projects in Africa.

Climate finance in Africa – bridging the public/private divide

Tuesday 06 December 2011 at 10:15 – 11:30am Auditorium, Standard Bank, 1 Kingsmead Way, 4001 Durban

Following our Durban team






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Monday 21 November - One week to go!

This is the first of our "pre-Durban" blogs and with just a week until COP17 starts, we look at the expectations for the next round of climate negotiations. Catch up on our pre-Durban webinar.

The approach now seems to be baby steps. No hope of a bells and whistles treaty until later in the decade, so what can we move forward on?

Our focus for the COP will be:

  • more clarity on the rules for measurement, reporting and verification of targets and actions to mitigate emissions, including the process of biennial reporting, International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) and the proposed "Nama Registry"
  • progress on the legal form of an international agreement and the framework for mitigation targets and actions
  • whether or not the EU can move forwards with its proposal to agree a roadmap towards a legally binding agreement
  • greater clarity on the role of market mechanisms
  • getting the Green Climate Fund up and ready for contributions in 2013 more detail on REDD finance.

View the latest UNFCCC documents

Hurdles for the negotiators include coming up with something plausible in response to the looming "Kyoto gap" and finding a way to lock in existing mitigation pledges, but with the flexibility necessary to beef them up in the future. Convincing developing countries that fast-start climate finance is being delivered will also be a challenge.

Scaling-up renewable energy in Africa: South Africa

Over the coming week we will roll out a series of short publications which focus on in-country priorities for scaling up renewable energy in:

  • South Africa
  • DRC
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • Tanzania
  • Morocco

View the briefing Scaling-up renewable energy in Africa: South Africa

Come visit us at COP!

If you are at COP, drop by for a chat at our stand on the ground floor of Standard Bank, 1 Kingsmead Way, 4001 Durban – just 10 minutes walk from the ICC.

Side Events

Also, don't forget to join us at our side events:

Climate finance in Africa – bridging the public/private divide

Tuesday 06 December 2011 at 10:15 – 11:30am
Auditorium, Standard Bank, 1
Kingsmead Way, 4001 Durban

The emerging Australian carbon and clean energy market: opportunities for international participation

Wednesday 07 December 2011 at 15.30 – 16.45pm
Auditorium, Standard Bank, 1 Kingsmead Way, 4001 Durban

Following our Durban team






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