COP17 Durban UN climate talks Nov 26th/27th


12:20am GMT, 26 Nov: “Stop the expansion of carbon markets.”

This is one of five core goals that will be pursued by Friends of the Earth in their campaigning and advocacy at the Durban climate talks.

Success would shrink the size of these annual UN climate conferences by about half, such is the presence of enterprises whose prospects depend on precisely the opposite goal – the expansion and globalisation of carbon markets.

The arguments are complex and well-worn. What’s new this year is the total collapse in the market price of carbon, far below the level necessary to stimulate low carbon development without subsidy.

It will be fascinating over coming days to see which side can exploit this market failure to their advantage.

The issue of carbon credits and offsets is most pertinent in the context of REDD, the proposed scheme for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

The Friends of the Earth insistence that REDD should be funded without resort to carbon credits looks just a little negative in relation to Global Witness, another leading environmental group publishing its Durban manifesto today. This begins:

Forest protection presents a rare chance to make tangible progress on climate change in upcoming UN negotiations in Durban

Global Witness has anxieties about the protection of forest livelihoods and local ecosystems but remains silent on the troublesome business of carbon trading.

The debate begins for real on Monday.

12:13pm GMT, 26 Nov: Full marks to the Financial Times, the world’s leading business paper, for publishing a 12-page supplement on the Durban climate talks yesterday. And for giving space to President Nasheed of the Maldives and to Julius Recha Murgor, Kenya’s assistant environment minister.

There’s been a change at the FT since last year’s round of UN talks. Its former environment correspondent, Fiona Harvey, has graduated to the Guardian. The FT appointed its aerospace (!) correspondent, Pilita Clark, to take over the role.

Ms Clark’s introductory piece in the supplement is sound enough except that it builds on an extremely shaky reading of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:

the UNFCCC treaty was the world’s first big collective stab at tackling climate change…..it is a voluntary deal aimed at warding off what its text describes as “dangerous” human interference with the climate system

A “UN Framework Convention” does not set out to impose binding targets. It establishes the overall goal of preventing dangerous climate change together with the principles to be observed in any associated related legal instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol.

These Principles that the world accepted in 1992 contain more sound common sense than you will hear in all the Durban negotiations put together. They articulate the political obligation to act in response to scientific advice (as opposed to certainty). And they establish the relationship between countries responsible for the problem and those most vulnerable to its impacts.

Articles 3 and 4 of the Convention should be pasted on every wall of the Durban International Convention Centre. And on the laptop of the FT environment correspondent.

12:52pm GMT, 26 Nov: Here’s a perfect primer for anyone leaning towards the intersection between the Occupy movement and the UN climate talks. An interview in the US journal, Monthly Review, with Fred Magdoff, author of What every environmentalist needs to know about capitalism.

The failure of international climate negotiations is bringing new energy to socialist perspectives. A profit-dependent world elevates fear of economic disadvantage over environmental stewardship, compelling nation states to freeze like rabbits in the headlights.

As Magdoff says, capitalism poses the wrong questions:

what kind of society and economy do we have if we need to continue polluting so people can work? This is not only an irrational economic/social/political system but also a dangerous one.

He goes on to discuss the role of climate activism in the “democratic struggle” and how disruptive this might have to become.

1:20pm GMT, 26 Nov: Mary Robinson’s Foundation for Climate Justice will be a force behind the scenes in Durban campaigning for recognition of the gender dimension in every layer of decision-making.

The burden of managing households and small farms in uncertain climate times falls squarely on women but the Foundation sees hope for them in the reasonable gender balance in UN climate negotiations.

Amongst others, this refers to Christiana Figueres (the senior UN climate official), Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (the South African minister chairing the conference), Connie Hedegaard (European Commissioner) and Dessima Williams who speaks for the small island states.

The snag is that the senior US and Chinese representatives present a solid wall of men.

12:40am GMT, 27 Nov: The Trans-African Caravan of Hope has made it safely into Durban, assembling at Kwa Zulu Natal University to celebrate its achievement of gathering 2 million signatures in support of climate justice…

…well, that’s just one of a number of possibly over-egged statements in the only online (anonymous) report available so far. It’s classic blogosphere, obviously bashed out in a noisy meeting with reckless disdain for tiresome fact-checking.

But it’s clear that one of the speakers was Pablo Salon, rightly described as “the once Bolivia Chief Negotiator”.

Pablo’s message was one that we should hear more often – that average global warming of 2 degrees is irrelevant to Africa’s inland regions crossed by the caravan. They will experience double that figure, or whatever higher average is our fate if these talks don’t make some headway.

1:19am GMT, 27 Nov: A quick round-up of big media finds little weekend coverage of the Durban climate talks. Huffington Post, the Mail&Guardian (South Africa) and The Hindu (India) all run the same syndicated AP story, a tired piece on how it’s time to update the 1992 division of countries between developed and developing for the purpose of climate responsibilities. All of the quotes are weeks old.

I’m not even convinced there’s much new in a report by the UK’s World Development Movement for which John Vidal of the Guardian has rushed through his article just in time for the Sunday paper. It’s potential dynamite, accusing rich countries of bullying tactics in climate negotiations at the two most recent annual rounds of UN talks in Copenhagen and Cancun.

Surely it’s widely known that the Obama administration withheld promised climate funds from Bolivia and Ecuador when they refused to sign up to the Copenhagen Accord. Other countries were reported to have come under pressure from European donors and caved in.

As for dirty tricks at the Copenhagen conference itself, the entire process was such as shambolic disaster from start to finish that the “new testimonies” presented in this latest report fail to surprise.

But that’s a hasty judgement and the coverage will undoubtedly add to the pressures already piling up for the South Africans hosts.

12:27pm GMT, 27 Nov: I hope that next time we meet you will be awake!

Sleepy journalists were handbagged earlier this afternoon by the feisty UN climate boss, Christiana Figueres, when unable to sustain a flow of questions on what she called “a revolution in every sense of the word.” After all, not many press conferences address such a topic.

Sometimes you feel that Ms Figueres is single-handedly holding together the whole crumbling edifice of UN climate change negotiations. She carefully assembles recent evidence that a breakthrough is imminent – the scientific reports, the steps taken by government, business and activists. Logically, she concludes:

There are compelling reasons to make a serious effort to continue into a second commitment period (of the Kyoto Protocol)

But she conceded that this is the most difficult issue for the talks and is unlikely to be addressed seriously until the ministers arrive next week.

On being asked what would constitute a successful outcome for the Durban conference, Ms Figueres said:

Durban has the extraordinary opportunity to put the whole Cancun package into operation – these are areas that need to be done urgently. And we want to be clear how emissions reductions commitments are going to be taken forward.

On the Cancun issues that could get under way in 2012, she mentioned especially the Technology Mechanism, Adaptation Framework, Green Climate Fund and the Periodic Review of the adequacy of emissions commitments as at 2015.

“What is the Durban roadmap?” asked Ms Figueres when a questioner mentioned the phrase in relation to approach taken by the European Union.

I do hope this particular moniker falls by the wayside. Its predecessor, the 2007 Bali Roadmap, was greeted with ecstatic cheering but now lies in ruins.

As the journos flagged, a desperate appeal went out to Twitter for a question. That too, fell on deaf ears.

Maybe the 140-character limit is too much of a toy to grasp the adult world of global warming. That’s one reason why you should keep an eye on this blog and our video interviews over the coming fortnight.

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this post was first published by OneWorld UK

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