Test for alliances at Durban climate talks


11:41am GMT: Meles Zenawi, head of the African delegation in Durban, is in trouble with African civil society  over remarks which imply he might let go of the Kyoto Protocol (see Nov 17th post).

The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) is  demanding clarification. Coordinator Mithika Mwenda said:

It is imperative that Africa is firmly united under the agreed position otherwise we shall witness the repeat of Copenhagen’s COP15 when the continent was divided

Two separate African governmental groups have been preparing for the Durban talks and appear to be coming up with different answers. Environment ministers met in Mali in September and were resolute in demands for rich countries to be bound to emissions reductions in a second commitment period of the Protocol.

Zenawi made his backsliding remarks after chairing the separate gathering of heads of state last week. The rapid response of PACJA suggests that Zenawi is a marked man and unlikely to be allowed to pull off a repeat of his apparent climb-down at the 2009 Copenhagen talks.

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7:04pm GMT: I’ve put off writing about REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) because it’s become so difficult. Years ago the topic was dead simple – rich countries compensate poor countries for keeping the trees standing – and it seemed ready to roll, as least until the calamitous Copenhagen conference.

Last year’s conference got REDD moving again with lots of detail set out in the Cancun agreements. There’s been decent funding support for pilot projects and much has been learned from them, not least that the really tricky parts are protecting forest people’s rights and securing sustainable finance.

If finance has to come from the private sector, that means awarding carbon credits for preserving trees and in turn that requires demand from richer countries and businesses obliged to reduce or offset their emissions.

And that’s the role of the Kyoto Protocol or a broader long term agreement. Without a deal in Durban, REDD may become more bogged down with its own small print.

Leony Aurora takes up the story in the excellent blog maintained by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

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10:27pm GMT: A quick round-up of the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) who have all staked out a position on the Durban talks over the last 24 hours.

These countries are pivotal because they have become “major emitters” but have no commitment to reductions under the Kyoto Protocol. China and India are 1st and 3rd on the list of carbon dioxide emissions for 2010.

China’s tactics  follow a familiar pattern. A report described as a “white paper” boasts about energy efficiency achievements and future goals that are already in the public domain. Seizing the moment of moral ascendancy, chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua demands greater binding commitments from US and other mature economies.

India doesn’t seem bothered with such window dressing. Meena Raman of Third World Network has carefully documented a  press conference with environment minister  , Jayanthi Natarajan. The core message is that India demands the unconditional renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. Not a conciliatory gesture in sight.

The position of Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, the  key player from Brazil  , is much the same. He’s not interested in talking about binding commitments until 2020.

As for South Africa, they’re not saying much at all. As host country, the three D’s are paramount – be Diplomatic in hope of securing a Deal named after Durban for posterity.

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this post was first published by OneWorld UK

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