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international climate policy

Reflections on COP 17 in Durban

Written with analysis from Athena Ballesteros, Louise Brown, Florence Daviet, Crystal Davis, Aarjan Dixit, Kelly Levin, Heather McGray, Remi Moncel, Clifford Polycarp, Kirsten Stasio, Fred Stolle, and Lutz Weischer

Jennifer Morgan, Edward Cameron, and our team of climate experts look back on the key decisions from Durban and give a first take on their implications for global efforts to tackle climate change.

As weary negotiators return home from the marathon United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Durban, South Africa, opinion is divided on the deal that was struck.

Some believe the package – consisting of a new “Durban Platform” to negotiate the long-term future of the regime, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and an array of decisions designed to implement the Cancun agreements – represents a significant step forward and cause for hope. Others are more cautious, viewing these outputs as insufficient in ambition, content, and timing to tackle the far-reaching threat of climate change.

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Q & A: The Legal Aspects of the Durban Platform Text

At the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP-17) in Durban – “the longest COP ever” -- Parties agreed to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on a Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-DP). The AWG-DP has the mandate to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”

The AWG-DP will start its work “as a matter of urgency” in the first half of 2012. It will complete it no later than 2015, with the outcome to be adopted at COP-21 and to come into effect and be implemented from 2020. The content of AGDP’s workplan will focus in particular on “enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and to explore options for a range of actions that can close the ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties.”

What are the legal implications of the Durban Platform text, and what could the different legal options mean for the UNFCCC? Below we go through some questions and answers:

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Dispatches from Durban: Lessons for Climate Negotiators from Africa Then and Now

I touched down in Durban, South Africa, on Sunday night met by a cool tropical breeze. Since I arrived in this large port city, I’ve been thinking about Africa, which serves as a powerful backdrop for this year’s annual climate conference.

Like many places I’ve visited, especially among developing countries, there is great diversity to the surroundings. The convention center is large and modern. Nearby you find industrial buildings, shopping malls, and hotels – and lots of people in a city pulsating with life.

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Boosting International Action on Climate Change: Over 130 Options as a Start

This post was written in collaboration with Kevin McCall.

Despite the urgency of the climate challenge, emissions are still on the rise, and countries’ pledges to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions still fall short, in aggregate, of what science suggests is necessary.

So what more can we do to bridge this ambition gap?

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Week Two in Durban Climate Talks: The Clock is Ticking

Three years ago, I attended a performance of Athol Fugard’s powerful play “My Children! My Africa!” Set in South Africa at the end of apartheid, the play deals with a conflict over the most effective means to address a great injustice. Throughout the play, there are signs of progress but it’s slow and it’s hard-won. The protagonists struggle to reconcile the growing demand for urgent change with the need to show patience with a fragile process. Sound familiar?

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Mexico’s Proposed 2012 Budget Fails to Allocate Adequate Funding for Climate Change

This post is based on a release that originally appeared on the CEMDA website.

According to a new study by the Mexican Finance Group – 16 NGOs, including CEMDA, that work on environmental, budget, gender equity, and human rights issues – the funding currently allocated in Mexico’s budget for climate change mitigation and adaptation is insufficient for meeting the goals the country has established for 2012. The group, created in 2010, agrees that international finance is necessary to complement domestic investment in order to achieve Mexico’s emissions targets, but they affirm that first and foremost it is necessary improve the national budget allocation to begin the transition towards a low carbon development path.

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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.

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The Challenge of Legal Form at the Durban Climate Talks

The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end in 2012, and the negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have yet to reach an “agreed outcome” to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions post-2012. This impasse raises the prospect that in a year’s time – even as the scientific evidence mounts that human impact on the climate system is veering out of control – there will be no internationally agreed legally binding commitments regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

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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.

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Building the Foundation for REDD+: Recommendations for Durban on Forest Monitoring

Though forests play an essential role in international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the development of systems to monitor deforestation and forest degradation has been slow. This is due to the demanding technical requirements and the large capacity gaps in many countries. Measuring and monitoring change on the ground and via satellite in a consistent way is no easy task.

Countries need to develop national measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) systems to monitor progress towards achieving REDD+ goals. Establishing procedures to do so would be a significant outcome of the UN climate negotiations in Durban. This task falls to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

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