Wrap Up Of Durban Climate Talks: Roaring Lion or a Hidden Dragon? [Who Won and Who Lost]

Posted on January 14, 2012 in Environment

By Priti Rajagopalan:

It has been a little more than a month since I left Durban with some disappointment. After the festive season, I come back with a lot of hope, patience and holiday fat. Between then and now, I have read a lot of Durban analysis and what we look forward to between one D to the other D. There have been analysis of winner’s and loser’s at the COP Climate Summit. I would like to begin by nominating my own winners and losers and try and make sense of what we are going with – to the Bonn talks.

The European Union, has always been a leader in the arena. It had come with a clear mandate that it would not commit to a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol until the emerging economies agree on deciding an architecture that would include them in a binding agreement. One thing we need to remember is , most European countries had their legal domestic reduction targets. With or without being a party to the Kyoto they would reduce their emissions. In spite this knowledge, Brazil, China and South Africa agreed to discuss a new framework that would expect them to reduce emissions from 2020. But, by this strategy, EU clearly got the Alliance Of Small Island States and Least Developed Countries on their side. The vulnerable nations have often been vocal about the need for the emerging economies to act and not just voluntarily. Hence, EU and AOSIS, LDC were clear winners.

United States was trumped a couple of times during the negotiations. While people feel, it had got its way again, I beg to differ slightly in this regards. A young activist intervened Mr. Stern’s, the Special Envoy for Climate Change, speech. People applauded. The audience (non-negotiators) of the COP 17 passively showed their disdain with the United States. There was a massive protest by the environmental groups and youth groups demanding “Action Now!”. The activists, actively echoed the sentiment inside the hall to the outside world. Of course, this has been happening COP after COP. Nobody supports the United States but the action has to go beyond protests and showing non agreement. Everybody knows the US has been a traditional blocker. Give or take, US has or will never agree to do what we want from it. The only option is to not let it get what it wants us to do and that is it postpone progressive climate talks towards a deal that would keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees or less.

In its present form, the Ad Hoc Working Group- Long Term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA) document leads us to a 4-4.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperature. This could and will be catastrophic. Everybody knows it, but the EU, AOSIS, LDC, BASIC countries accept it. The United States has been pushing that the work of this working group was over and it needed to close down. The talks looked towards a complete disintegration especially during the equity-emerging commitment debate. But, it was eventually resolved and the LCA managed to live for another year. The United States definitely lost here. Was it an EU strategy or a mere co-incidence, that is hard to tell.

The media claims, India lost the plot. India has always used its internal social status and developing card to resist being included in any kind of legal domestic cuts. This COP was no different. What happened was, India being portrayed as the bad guy — the blocker of the talks. As pressure build on, miraculously India gave in to agreeing to a decision that would launch talks on a new legal instrument with a legal force under the convention. But, the vital question was did India lose out on equity, which it called the blank cheque for 1.2 billion of its citizen? The clue maybe in the extension of AWG-LCA which continues its work and reach the agreed outcome pursuant to 1/CP.13 OR the Bali Action Plan, in whose heart lies Equity. Was India really the loser?

While we discuss, it would be interesting to see what the AWG-DPEA (Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) and AWG-LCA has in store for us at Bonn. Will Equity and legal reduction for all run parallel or Will Legal reduction run over Equity. All eyes are on this as the plot thickens.

Japan And Russia which had refused to be party to the second commitment period because large enough emissions weren’t being covered under it will ave to either come up with a new reason for inactivity or welcome the positive movement DPEA has made on an all-inclusive climate deal.

On 28 February, 2012 when UNFCCC holds a in-session workshop where countries can propose ways of increasing ambition and further ambition, these issues are bound to come up. And, things might be a little clearer. I hope to retain the hope and patience but not the holiday weight till now and Bonn.