COP17 ends with a legally binding deal ... sort of

A legally binding deal was signed at COP17 after concerns by major emitters India, China and the US were eased.

President of COP17 Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

President of COP17 Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

The deal has been hailed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a 'breakthrough on the future' of the international emissions and backed by the UK's government.

However the COP17 talks, in the South African city of Durban, have also been criticised as they 'provide little restriction on the destruction of the world's climate system' by observers.

And the crucially legally binding element of the deal is still to be agreed and is unlikely to be fully signed off until 2015.

Governments, including 35 industrialised countries, agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013.

In what the UK delegation called a 'major realignment of support' more than 120 countries formed a coalition behind the European Union's proposal of a roadmap to a global legally binding deal to curb emissions.

African states together with the least developed countries such as Bangladesh and Gambia, and small island states vulnerable to rising sea levels, like the Maldives, joined with the EU to put forward a timetable which would see the world negotiate a new agreement by 2015 at the latest.

To achieve rapid clarity, Parties to this second period will turn their economy-wide targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives and submit them for review by May next year.

The deal is considered very positive because the Kyoto Protocol's accounting rules, mechanisms and markets all remain in action as effective tools to leverage global climate action and as models to inform future agreements.

South African minister of international relations and cooperation and president of COP17, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said: "We have taken crucial steps forward for the common good and the global citizenry.

"I believe what we have achieved in Durban will play a central role in saving tomorrow, today.

"I salute the countries who made this agreement, they have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose - a long-term solution to climate change."

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: "For the first time we've seen major economies, normally cautious, commit to take the action demanded by the science.

"The EU's proposal for the roadmap was at the core of the negotiations and the UK played a central role in galvanising support.

"There are still many details to be hammered out, but we now need to start negotiating the new legal agreement as soon as possible and there are still many details to be hammered out."

Friends of the Earth International climate justice coordinator, Sarah-Jayne Clifton, said: "Ordinary people have once again been let down by our governments.

"The Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding framework for emissions reductions, remains in name only, and the ambition for those emissions cuts remains terrifyingly low.

"Meanwhile, millions across the developing world already face devastating climate impacts, and the world catapults headlong towards climate catastrophe.

"It is clear in whose interests this deal has been advanced, and it isn't the 99% of people around the world.

"The noise of corporate polluters has drowned out the voices of ordinary people in the ears of our leaders."

The next major UNFCCC Climate Change Conference COP 18 is due to take place between November and December 2012 in Qatar.

Luke Walsh


cuts | COP17 | energy manager


Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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