Setting a new record, the Durban climate conference finished early on Sunday morning. The decisions are available on the UNFCCC website.
After laborious wrangling, the conference decided to launch a new dedicated process to negotiate a new comprehensive climate agreement, “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force“. So the EU, AOSIS and LDCs succeeded in getting a roadmap for a new comprehensive and legally binding climate agreement, despite the strong opposition from the USA, India and to a lesser extent China. The new “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” is supposed to start work in 2012 and finish as early as possible but not later than 2015. However, as concession to the opponents the new agreement is supposed to come into effect and be implemented only from 2020. As the level of ambition of the emission reduction pledges countries have made for the time till 2020 is much too low to bring the world on a 2°C trajectory it urgently needs to be strengthened as soon as possible.
The decision therefore stipulates that the new process shall raise the level of ambition and that there shall be a workshop to that effect in 2012. However, there already was such a workshop this year and it delivered few results. And the text is actually ambiguous on whether raising the level of ambition is supposed to apply to the 2020 targets or rather the time after 2020.
Countries also agreed to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. However, the details of the new reduction targets have not yet been decided, this will need to take place next year.
The length of the second commitment period has also not been decided yet, options are five years (2013-17) or eight years (till 2020). Taking the second option would mean locking in inadequate targets for much too long.
The major “hot air” loophole, the surplus emission certificates that were allocated to the former Communist states in the first commitment period, also still needs to be addressed.
In addition, countries seem to have created a new “logging loophole”, a possibility to not account for increasing emissions from forestry, but I’m not an expert on this issue.
To quote Bill Hare from Climate Analytics, “What is positive in Durban is that governments have reopened the door to a legally binding global agreement involving the world’s major emitters, a door which many thought had been shut at the Copenhagen Conference in 2009. What remains to be done is to take more ambitious actions to reduced emissions, and until this is done we are still headed to over 3oC warming. There are still no new pledges on the table and the process agreed in Durban towards raising the ambition and increasing emission reductions is uncertain it its outcome.”
As always, the Wuppertal Institute is going to produce a detailed report on the conference’s outcome.