South Africa: Blog: UN climate change negotiations, Durban, November - December 2011 (Cont. II)

Thursday 08 December - Day 11: Life is not a bowl of cherries

As expected, the pace of developments and sense of urgency associated with the talks have increased in these final two days of the negotiations. Like any raw material under pressure, the process is showing evidence of high pressure breaking points and low resistance malleability. At this point, it is unclear whether a pure metal will emerge: As we say in East London, ignis aurum probat, miseria fortes homines (which loosely translates as "life is not a bowl of cherries").

The COP President reached out to civil society to communicate the essential role of Non-Parties. In doing so, she affirmed the fragile state of the negotiations and the need for openness, trust, and the absence of brinkmanship that will be required to achieve a deal. She candidly stated that success in Durban would, in South Africa's view, be achieved if:

  • the process remained positive (in contrast to prior years);
  • there was agreement on financing through forward movement on the pledges to, and implementation of, the Green Climate Fund; and
  • a clear path forward on the Kyoto Protocol and a legally binding agreement involving all emitters was achieved.

She generally remained positive that a deal could be reached in Durban.


The COP 17 President convened a Ministerial Indaba last night (Thursday) at 10 p.m. The President was asked by ministers to continue deliberations. It will reconvene later today (Friday). Various papers have been made available, in respect of the "bigger picture" and discussions under the KP and broader UNFCCC implementation.

The paper in respect of the "bigger picture" sets out a series of options regarding a roadmap for further negotiations, and the eventual adoption of a legally binding agreement, as well as the forum for such discussions. Various options are presented in respect of legal form, including another legally binding instrument under the Convention, adoption of an Article 17 protocol or another legally binding instrument and/or Decisions. Options for the KP are much more complex and presented in diagrammatic form.

Oh, Canada!

This sense of measured, but tentative optimism is supported by a marked change in the Canadian negotiating position. In sharp contrast to his Wednesday comments, Minister Kent indicated that Canada was willing to take on legally binding targets and enter into a new agreement effective 2015. In the corridors, this is thought to be the workings and impetus of a new coalition among Canada, US, and certain emerging economies with key roles in the negotiations.


New market mechanism discussions under the AWG-LCA process appear to be stalled on procedural and substantive issues. Parties led by the US were disappointed that no new text was produced. The parties have essentially arrived at the point where 3 main options to proceed are being put forward for decision. The first is agreement to new market mechanisms, through either a legally binding framework on the rules and MRV, or a more flexible structure. The second is no agreement on new market mechanisms. The third involves agreement on a framework or work plan to consider new market mechanisms. We anticipate that the parties will reach agreement on the third option.

It was intended that the Guidelines for the CDM Executive Board work would wrap up yesterday. This proved unachievable, with no agreed guidelines resulting from the session which ran late into the evening.

Discussions will continue today. Progress appears to be blocked on the issues of the CDM Executive Board reviewing its own conduct, and the development of guidance on global and local stakeholder consultation. There does not appear to be any forward movement on the development of an appeal process through this stream of the negotiations.

Nearby, the JI discussions took a surprising turn. 2011 is a crucial year for JI in view of a potential absence of a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period. In earlier sessions Russia, keen to optimise its position, seemed to be playing a hard game in relation to paragraphs 17, 18 and 19 of the draft text relating to this question, but eventually folded to the disappointment of some and satisfaction of others.

Durban Mandate?

We'll send out our final blog on Monday with an overview of what may be termed the "Durban Mandate".

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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