Marathon Climate Talks Inch Ball Forward While Climate Change Barrels Ahead

Written by Duncan Marsh on . Posted in COP17, The Wonk Room














DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA — After negotiations that lasted into overtime by an extra day and night, governments from 194 countries meeting at the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa have agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol to reduce carbon emissions. They also established a pathway that should lead to a more ambitious global framework for reducing emissions, and have opened the Green Climate Fund to assist developing countries’ efforts to address climate change.

“These agreements are important steps forward for global cooperation, yet it is clear that the outcomes in Durban fall well short of meeting the urgency of the climate challenge,” said Duncan Marsh, international climate policy director at The Nature Conservancy.

Durban has made a significant advancement for the global climate effort in establishing a process for negotiating a more comprehensive and legally-binding agreement that will bring all major emitters under the same roof – a prospect that looked far from certain coming into Durban. Nevertheless, the Durban package leaves considerable uncertainty on important details of the pathway forward.

The agreement on rules for the Green Climate Fund was an important part of the Durban package, especially for developing countries.

“While the Green Climate Fund is now open for business, and there have been some initial deposits, we still need to know where more funding will come from.” Marsh said.

The outcome also makes progress on enhancing the abilities of countries to respond to climate change impacts as well as on efforts to halt deforestation.

“These agreements on adaptation will help countries take larger steps to protect vulnerable communities from climate-related impacts like drought, wildfire, floods, sea-level rise, and other threats to their economies and ways of life,” said Marsh.

“On forests, countries broke through a long-time stalemate in agreeing that both markets and non-market sources can be used to finance developing countries’ efforts on REDD activities,” said Marsh.

The credibility of rules for accounting of forest emissions in developed countries took a blow, however, with significant loopholes remaining.

“While we inch down the road toward a truly meaningful global agreement, climate change continues barreling down the highway,” said Marsh. “Despite the agreement reached here, countries have no alternative but to continue to build stronger political and public will for climate action at home and internationally.”

Duncan Marsh is international climate policy director for The Nature Conservancy

Photo by: Matt Barrett/TNC (Negotiators huddle as the COP 17 deal is finalized early Sunday in Durban, South Africa).


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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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