China Injects Some Momentum – Durban Talks Finally Swinging into Gear?

As has been the case so often, negotiations in Durban have so far mostly proceeded at a snail’s pace. The statements in yesterday’s stocktaking plenary were virtually indistinguishable from the statements one week earlier. Back in Germany, Chancellor Merkel has been extremely unhelpful by stating publicly that she saw little hope for an agreement on a second Kyoto period.

But now China is stirring things up a bit. While China has indicated increased flexibility for quite a while already, chief negotiator Su Wei and Minister Xie both insinuated here in Durban that China might be willing to consider adopting legally binding commitments for the time after 2020 if its key asks are met. Though apparently it is not fully clear whether China’s agreement to negotiate a legally binding treaty also includes agreeing on legally binding commitments for itself. As I noted earlier, agreement on a roadmap for negotiating a new treaty is one of the key issues in Durban.

China’s conditions are:

  • Commitment of the EU and others to a second Kyoto period
  • Actual delivery the USD 30 billion fast start financing pledged in Copenhagen, and a process to ramp up climate finance to the USD 100 billion annually by 2020 also pledged in Copenhagen;
  • Implementation of the Cancún Agreements on the Green Climate Fund, technology, mitigation, adaptation, and transparency;
  • A prompt start on the 2013-15 review of adequacy;
  • And clear adherence to the Convention’s principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in any longer-term negotiations.

This may sound like a lot, but actually China is just demanding full implementation of the Bali Roadmap agreed in 2007. So China is taking the others by their word – are they going to follow through? Things may now get increasingly uncomfortable for the USA who has taken the position that the time is not ripe to start negotiating a new treaty. But if China is indeed willing to consider taking legally binding commitments in such a new treaty, what else do they want?

In other news, Canada has again confirmed its opposition to Kyoto despite the Chinese show of flexibility. The BBC’s Richard Black gives a nice overview of the current situation in Durban.

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