Environment: The Durban climate meeting What does it mean for the Pacific?

Environment: The Durban climate meeting

What does it mean for the Pacific?

Source : http://www.islandsbusiness.com/islands_business/index_dynamic/containerNameToReplace=MiddleMiddle/focusModuleID=20007/overideSkinName=issueArticle-full.tpl

David Sheppard*

Climate change poses immense risks and dangers for our region. It is thus no surprise that the Pacific Islands countries and territories were well represented at the recent Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in December in Durban, South Africa.
Our representatives actively participated in all areas of the conference and were lead negotiators for the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) in certain issues such as adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change.
There were over 12,000 participants in Durban from over 190 countries, representatives of international and regional organisations and a growing and active civil society presence. So what was the result and implications of Durban for our Pacific region ?
A major outcome was reaching an agreement on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol (KP2). There were fears the Kyoto Protocol would die in Durban and this decision secured its extension while a broader agreement is being negotiated.
The negotiation period for the broader agreement will determine how long the KP2 will last. This, however, will rest on technical quantification of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reductions.
The need to extend the Kyoto Protocol was a key point made by Pacific negotiators in Durban and this is a positive outcome. However, there is still some uncertainty on how many developed countries will undertake their most ambitious pledges. More work will be required, thus ensuring a busy negotiations year for 2012.
Another significant outcome from Durban is the decision to launch a process to “develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties” to be negotiated by 2015 and that will be effective no later than 2020.
This is widely regarded as the most important outcome from Durban. Without it, there would be no roadmap for future climate change regime. It was likened to the Berlin mandate of 1995 that led to the Kyoto Protocol, which similarly saw AOSIS as a driving force.
It is significant as it will cover all major emitters including China, India and the United States, all of which are currently not included in the Kyoto Protocol.
This moves beyond the current divided responsibilities between developed and developing countries, while retaining the idea that all countries will determine their common but differentiated responsibilities to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions. However, the legal interpretation of the final outcome of the new process is likely to become a contentious issue as negotiations proceed.
Also at issue is whether the relatively stringent rules of the Kyoto Protocol can be enshrined so as to protect the integrity of the new instrument and not be watered down to the lowest common denominator.
An important decision relates to the operation of the Green Climate Fund, with signals from some countries of pledges to finance it. Durban agreed on the recommendations from the Transitional Committee for the Fund, which saw strong engagement and involvement by Ambassador Elisaia Aliioaiga Feturi from Samoa, supported by SPREP and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
The challenge will now be to ensure that adequate funding is received not only for the functioning of the fund, but also to make the fund “work” at an operational level in support of key activities on the ground in developing countries.
Of note is also the decision to give equal weighting to adaptation as well as mitigation activities in the Green Climate Fund.
There was positive progress in many work areas under the conference. For example on adaptation, the Adaptation Committee was established and its initial work programme was decided.
This should provide an improved focus on adaptation work in the UNFCCC, which to-date has been a bit fragmented. However, Pacific Islands Countries did not attain all that they had requested, such as having a higher status for the Adaptation Committee in the UNFCCC hierarchy.
Related to this, the Pacific noted positive progress on a work programme on loss and damage, which will look into various approaches such as insurance, to reach an agreement on how this can be applied to regions such as the Pacific, in response to both longer term impacts and extreme events.
Throughout the conference there was a very positive cooperation between SPREP and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs), through having an “Islands Pavilion” at Durban where we had many side events and joint meetings and activities.
This built on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) I signed with Dr Ken Leslie, CEO of the 5Cs, in Samoa in June, 2011, which aims to strengthen cooperation between the Pacific and the Caribbean on climate change.
Our joint events were well attended and provided a special forum to improve knowledge on what the islands regions are doing on climate change. The media outreach of the Pacific region was also significant with our initial survey showing that Pacific stories reached far and wide in terms of being picked up by various international and regional news outlets.
This included successful press conferences on the PACC programme and SIDS DOCK, where Japan announced a grant of US$15 million over the next two years for renewable energy in the islands countries. This adds to the contribution by Denmark of some US$12 million, as well as pledges from the OPEC Fund.
AOSIS was a major player at Durban with significant influence on the negotiations process. The cooperation between AOSIS, the European Union (EU) and the Least Developed Countries Group had a major impact in ensuring the final result from Durban, in particular the roadmap for negotiating the new instrument.
The Chair of AOSIS will move from Grenada to Nauru in 2012 and this will significantly raise the profile of the Pacific Islands Countries in the FCCC process.
For the first time, there was also significant participation by the National Meteorological Service directors and they took an active role in the various scientific items such as research and systematic observation and achieved positive results for the Pacific region.
In addition, we also had representatives of the regional Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) project who presented on progress during the various side events. This resulted in renewed interest in supporting our region on the critical issue of adaptation.
Lack of progress
Durban has put us on the right track and the roadmap will guide the international negotiations towards a new agreement. While we have made a lot of progress since Copenhagen, I do have to express some concerns at the lack of progress on increasing the ambition of emission reductions and this needs more attention as we move forward from Durban. 2012 will also hopefully see the translation of reduction pledges into tangible targets. The bottom line however is what emissions the atmosphere will see. Creative use of accounting rules will not protect the Pacific Islands Countries from the adverse and devastating effects of climate change.
SPREP will continue to support the Pacific Islands Countries in the negotiations to help them secure an outcome that will protect our islands in the-long term.
* David Sheppard is the director-general of SPREP and he’s based in Apia, Samoa.

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