Panama: Progress or Paralysis?

1 October 2011

Durban is shaping up as a critical moment in the 20-year history of the climate regime.  The world can either build on what has been created in the Kyoto Protocol, raise the level of ambition as demanded by the science, and provide sufficient finance to meet developing countries’ needs for adaptation, mitigation, and REDD. Or it risks relegating the UNFCCC to a side show with little legitimacy to meaningfully address the climate crisis.

Let’s review what’s needed to avoid a train wreck in Durban:

Mitigation:In the Cancun Agreements, developed countries accepted that their aggregate level of ambition should be in the range of 25-40%.  Even while this range does not guarantee that global temperature rise will stay below 2 degrees Celsius, current developed country emission reduction pledges will result in reductions of only 12-18% going down to ~2% if currently existing and proposed loopholes are taken into account.  ECO suggests four critical elements in the Durban mitigation package for developed countries:: clarify what the net emissions would be based on current pledges and assumptions; close the loopholes;  move to the high end of current pledges; and agree on a process to increase ambition beyond 40%, for adoption at COP18/CMP8.

Panama can and must reach agreements on closing the loopholes.  The recent Review of proposals on forest management under LULUCF clarifies the size of the forestry loophole.  Now, Parties must adopt forest management reference levels that are comparable and that don’t significantly undermine Annex I Party targets. Overall, LULUCF rules should encourage Parties to achieve ambitious mitigation from land and forests.  On carry-forward of AAUs, Parties must eliminate the risk of “hot air” undermining the environmental integrity of future reduction commitments.

Kyoto Protocol: As acknowledged by both Executive Secretary Figueres and incoming COP President Nkoana-Mashabane, the future of the Kyoto Protocol will be decided at Durban.  While some developed country Parties would prefer to overlook the KP or at best, make a second commitment period conditional on what happens in the LCA over the next four years, it is  essential that in Durban, we cement a second commitment period of the KP.  The alternative – a pledge and review world – just won’t cut it.

Convention mandate: Given the urgency of the climate catastrophe unfolding daily before our eyes, nothing less than the greatest level of commitment is needed from all parties.  Therefore, in addition to preserving the Kyoto Protocol, Durban must agree that by 2015 at the latest, the commitments and actions of all Parties should be inscribed in legally binding instrument[s], whilst fully respecting the principles of the Convention.

Finance:The last session on finance in Bonn was dominated by discussions on the Standing Committee.  Negotiations need to also focus on the critical issue of where the money is going to come from.  Urgent attention on scaling up sources of climate finance from 2013 to 2020 is needed.  In addition to expanding direct finance from national treasuries, Parties should commit to raise significant revenue for the Green Climate Fund from innovative sources, implemented in a way that has no net incidence for poor countries.  Progress on a mechanism to levy bunker fuels would be an especially noteworthy achievement here in Panama, which licenses so much of the world’s shipping.

Technology: CAN urges Parties to decide here in Panama on the criteria for the Climate Technology Center host, so that the Center and Network can be operationalized in 2012 as envisioned in the Cancun Agreement.

Adaptation: Parties aren’t far away from a good decision text on the Adaptation Committee.  Here in Panama, they should agree on the composition of the Committee with equitable representation, direct reporting to the COP, and linkages to other institutions, particularly on finance and technology.

Capacity Building: Parties should work with the Facilitator's notes and his new and highly comprehensive background paper to begin drafting text for a Durban decision. This paper should focus on the vital question of how to design effective and comprehensive co-ordination of new, additional and scaled-up capacity-building within the emerging new architectures for finance, technology, adaptation, MRV and mechanisms.

MRV: Parties should build on the MRV architecture agreed in Cancun by moving forward on common accounting rules for emission reduction targets and an enhanced common reporting format on finance. Parties should also adopt guidelines on the content, timing and structure of biennial reports, and agree procedures for strong International Assessment and Review (IAR) for developed countries and International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) for developing countries.  

On all these fronts, Parties need to agree here in Panama what text they will work from – and begin to constructively work on that text.  It’s time for all Parties to show they are serious about the UNFCCC, and serious about their commitment to prevent catastrophic climate change; small steps won’t cut it.

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