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international climate policy

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

Forests and REDD+ in COP17 Durban

With all its complex processes and acronyms, it’s easy to forget that the international climate change negotiations are supposed to lead to changes on the ground. There have been several developments this year, however, which should remind us of the urgency of the task and the importance of getting each piece of the puzzle right, including incentives for developing countries to reduce their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

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:

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