Around dawn today, Sunday 11th December, the COP President banged the gavel down on the final session of negotiators at the climate summit in Durban. What was agreed? well, it isn’t a complete disaster. The Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding agreement to reduce emissions, will continue into a second commitment period. In parallel, a process for building a more comprehensive and ambitious treaty regime was launched – one that will include all countries in binding commitments to reduce emissions. Important decisions were made on adaptation, finance, and technology. On adaptation (the negotiations track I have been following for 6 years) there is now a clear framework for supporting developing countries in accessing information to help them adapt, in preparing national adaptation plans, and in working towards arrangements for loss and damage following climate change-related disasters such as droughts, floods and hurricanes in the most vulnerable countries. On finance, while arrangements for the Green Climate Fund are now agreed – there was no agreement on how to raise money for the fund! and without strong commitments on reducing emissions from the largest polluting countries, no amount of arrangements for adaptation will be effective, in the face of rising temperatures.
So, while the Durban conference avoided total failure, and has perhaps staved off future climate disaster, governments by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change. The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed. It’s high time governments stopped catering to the pressure of the oil and coal lobby, and started acting to protect people and planet.