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Expectations Low, But Urgency Very High at Durban Climate Talks

This post originally appeared in the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog. The question was, "What should negotiators seek to accomplish during this year's international climate talks?"

As the climate negotiations open in Durban, we find a peculiar paradox. While expectations for the talks remain quite low, the urgency is very high.

This dynamic is even more pronounced in the United States, where climate change continues to be largely ignored in political circles; except, that is, when the science is under attack. Meanwhile study after study show that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as the climate crisis worsens.

COP17 and the Periodic Review: Putting Ambition Back at the Heart of the UNFCCC

Are our current efforts to avert dangerous climate change, safeguard the development aspirations of vulnerable communities, and catalyze the transition to a low-carbon future sufficient? One of the key results from last year’s climate talks in Cancun was the decision to periodically review collective efforts to stabilize the climate and prevent global average temperatures from reaching 2°C above preindustrial levels. At COP17 in Durban negotiators will be tasked with finalizing the scope, modalities, and other design elements of the first so-called Periodic Review, which is scheduled to take place between 2013 and 2015. With careful design this often-overlooked product of Cancun could inject urgency and purpose into the negotiations once more.

Adaptation in COP17 Durban: Opportunities for Clarity and Consolidation

The Cancun Adaptation Framework agreed during COP16 provides potential for a new action orientation to adaptation under the UNFCCC. COP17 in Durban presents a big opportunity to resolve several critical pieces of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, to integrate and streamline the many strands of adaptation negotiations, and to move forward on helping countries around the world adapt. Expectations of significant progress on adaptation are high – especially since Durban is an “African COP,” taking place on a continent where vulnerability to climate change is palpable and affects so many people’s future. But the Durban adaptation agenda is long, and negotiation time limited, so Parties have no time to waste. Key issues are summarized here:

Looking to Durban: China’s Climate Change Policy Progress Since Cancun

This post was written with Angel Hsu and originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.org.

As its negotiators head to Durban, South Africa for the next round of the UNFCCC climate negotiations, China can point to significant progress in domestic climate policy since the Cancun negotiations a year ago. March, 2011 saw the adoption of China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, binding domestically China’s first phase of its Copenhagen and Cancun commitments to reduce its carbon intensity 40 to 45 percent by 2020. In this first year of the new Five Year Plan, China also adopted a number of specific climate-related implementation measures (For a more exhaustive list, see China’s just published White Paper on its climate change activities):

Weird Weather and the New Climate Reality

This post was written with Vinod Thomas, director general of the Asian Development Bank and former senior vice president, Independent Evaluation Group, World Bank. It was originally posted by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Polling stations in Connecticut were commandeered to shelter residents still without power eight days after a freak October snowstorm. Two months earlier, residents of Bastrop County, Texas, lost a record 476 homes to a single wildfire. And corn farmers in Mississippi County, Mo., are still picking up the pieces after their land disappeared under the raging Mississippi River in May.

Report Finds Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Creates Jobs and Stimulates Economic Growth

A new report finds that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has had a positive economic impact on the region. According to the report by the Analysis Group, RGGI, a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program for large power plants in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, has injected $1.6 billion into the region’s economy, and created 16,000 jobs since the program launched in 2009.

Five Takeaways from the IPCC Report on Extreme Weather and Climate Change

The world must brace for more extreme weather. That is the clear message from a new report that finds climate change is likely to bring more record-breaking temperatures, heat waves, and heavy downpours. The much anticipated Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) – the summary of which was released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – provides new evidence that links extreme weather events and climate change.

Climate Finance at COP17 Durban

This piece was written with Louise Brown, Research Analyst at WRI.

From November 28 to December 9, negotiators will gather in Durban, South Africa, for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP17 meeting. An outcome on climate finance – funds to support climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries – is a key part of the overall Durban agreement. This includes agreeing on how the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will be structured and governed, setting in motion a process to identify how developed countries will meet their long-term finance commitment of $100 billion by 2020, and agreeing on the role, composition and functions of the Standing Committee, a body that will monitor finance flows and enhance overall decision-making on climate finance.

What to Aim For, and Expect, at the UNFCCC Climate Talks in Durban

The thousands of delegates preparing to descend on Durban for COP17 should read Robert F. Kennedy’s famous “Day of Affirmation” speech en route. They will discover a call to action as powerful today as it was almost half a century ago. They will also find sensible guidance on how to overcome the sense of drift that has gripped the climate negotiations for much of this past year. If they heed his call they may discover that African soils are not for burying the climate regime as some pessimists suggest, but rather for growing the seeds of its future success.

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