After a couple of all night sessions in which some were falling asleep, delegates finally came to an agreement in Durban, South Africa. It is the first agreement that includes both industrial and developing nations in a binding agreement.
Depending on which source you choose, the credit for the agreement will be either be given to Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s Climate Chief (The Guardian) or India as a “leader and moral voice” (Times of India) or to no one since the resulting agreement doesn’t do all that much (The New York Times). The common theme among all three is that the climate talks in Durban finally produced an agreement that actually brought India, China, the European Union (EU) and the United States into agreement. They all agreed to continue negotiations on a future plan.
Agreeing to negotiate a future binding agreement doesn’t seem like much but after the exhaustive wrangling of the past few days, that was taken as something close to a miracle. In essence, all parties agreed to begin working on a new accord to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The new accord would be legally binding on industrial and developing nations alike which is a major breakthrough.
Previously, the United States refused to accept any agreement that did not bind both developed and developing countries equally. China and India were refusing to be held to the same standards as the EU and US so getting even a vague agreement was amazing.
The Kyoto Protocol was extended beyond its expiration date next year. It will remain in force through at least 2017. Negotiations for a new accord are to begin next year that will be finalized by 2015 and be in force by 2020.
According to The Telegraph:
‘The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action’ is carefully worded to ensure all countries are comfortable with the legal form.
It commits all parties to “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” that will be decided in 2015 and come into force in 2020.
In the interim between now and 2020 just Europe and a handful of other rich countries are legally bound to cutting carbon emissions through a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
The deal also includes plans to set up a Green Climate Fund that will channel around £60bn a year towards helping countries adapt to climate change from 2020.
It is the commitment by China, India and the US to enter into “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” as a minor miracle since all three are agreeing to something that all have previously refused, a legally binding agreement to cut emissions. However, that agreement is still years in the future and as we all know, a lot can happen between now and then.
Photo from United Nations Framework on Climate Change.