A Detailed Analysis of Some Promising Pieces of the Durban Decisions

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


While naturally most of the attention on the outcome of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa focused on the high-level climate agreement, there was also important progress on The Nature Conservancy’s climate priorities: adaptation; finance; and REDD+.

For the big picture, I outlined the reasons for cautious optimism that a new climate treaty can emerge from the Durban agreement, one that will include all major emitting countries within a common legal framework.

But for this blog, we dive in to some of the details.

Jorge Gastelumendi, the Conservancy’s Senior Policy Advisor for International Climate Policy, offered this recap of developments on climate finance:

On finance, countries succeeded in Durban to open the doors on operating the Green Climate Fund. This fund will be key for financing initiatives that either reduce emissions directly or help developing countries take steps to prepare for and respond to climate impacts.

The next challenge is getting countries to put money into the fund. With a capacity to channel resources foreseen to be as high as US$10 billion per year by 2020, the source of the funding for the Green Climate Fund is still an issue to be discussed and hopefully resolved in the near future. In other words, countries have sent a strong signal that they believe the Green Climate Fund could become a viable financial vehicle, in addition to the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds, the Global Environmental Facility, USAID and the International Climate Initiative from the German Government, among several others.

Therefore, concrete steps will be needed in 2012 and beyond, to ensure that resources, both public and private, flow to the Green Climate Fund, and that countries eventually receiving that money are “ready” to access, allocate and distribute those resources to projects on the ground. In this area, the Conservancy will continue its work supporting countries’ efforts to establish in-country financial structures for climate change.

Next, on adaptation to climate impacts, Irene Suarez, the Conservancy’s Senior Policy Advisor for International Climate Policy,reports that help for developing countries to prepare to deal with the impacts of climate change received significant attention in Durban,not least because of its location on a continent that is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

  • Good progress was made on defining the process for the least-developed countries to develop “National Adaptation Plans.” Countries agreed to strengthen and expand technical guidance and financial support for efforts to formulate and implement these national plans to address medium- and long-term planning and risk management.  Countries also created a process so that those not defined as least-developed countries can build plans as well.
  • Agreement was reached on the composition and procedures for the new Adaptation Committee that will provide a forum that can provide guidance to countries and coordinate adaptation work streams under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This will be the first time adaptation is dealt with in a committee that reports directly to the COP (or Conference of the Parties).
  • The Nairobi Work Programme that facilitates adaptation efforts and sharing of lessons learned (including those of the private sector and non-profits) was extended, with a plan to hold workshops in 2012 on: 1) water and climate change; and 2) ecosystem-based adaptation, the idea that nature can help human communities to avoid damage from storms and become more resilient to climate-related disruptions, such as droughts or floods.
  • Additionally, The Nature Conservancy worked with a number of environmental and development organizations to highlight the critical role that nature can play in helping protect human communities from many dangerous climate impacts.

Finally, Jeff Fiedler, the Conservancy’s Senior Policy Advisor for Climate and Forests, reports that the Durban negotiations adopted two decisions on REDD+ that set in motion how a global financing system for reducing emissions from deforestation will be implemented, including some crucial technical details. The decisions were uneven, with some strong points and some significant shortcomings, but at least with a good enough basis to move forward.

Most importantly, one decision establishes a good roadmap for deciding how REDD+ incentives to protect forests will be directed and funded. The decision explicitly includes the full range of sources of finance – private sector, public, and other innovative sources – and includes both market and non-market approaches to providing incentives. This broad approach maximizes the ability to actually provide funding on the scale needed to slow and halt deforestation emissions.

Also worth noting are the encouragement of the Green Climate Fund to finance REDD+, and the mention of a Bolivian approach to REDD+ that meshes both adaptation and mitigation (actions that avoid heat-trapping emissions). While not the conventional approach to REDD+, this integrated approach could make sense in a future world of significant climate impacts on forests.

The other decision involved making sure countries are on level and fair playing fields when their forest-based emissions are being measured. On the positive side, we will begin to see reference level data from countries, which will provide the basis for negotiating REDD+ finance and incentives and there is reasonably good transparency and detail called for, including historical data. The main shortcoming is the failure to elaborate how environmental and social safeguards agreed to last year in Cancun will be implemented in REDD+ countries, or reported internationally – a glaring gap in the REDD+ architecture. The safeguards agreed to in Cancun are critical to effective REDD+ implementation, preventing potential abuses of local communities, and ensuring that carbon benefits don’t overshadow biodiversity and other environmental benefits.

Some important areas that have largely been left to next year include monitoring, reporting and verification of avoided emissions; establishing national forest monitoring systems; and work on the underlying causes of deforestation.

For the Conservancy, Durban was a generally positive outcome overall. The progress to date offers promise that our work in the field on pilot projects, and in supporting REDD+ initiatives between partner countries, or larger groups of countries, will lead to a robust mechanism that both helps fight climate change and stops tropical deforestation.

Stay tuned to Planet Change to learn more about the Conservancy’s climate change work and the search for global solutions.

Jorge Gastelumendi is The Nature Conservancy’s Senior Policy Advisor for International Climate Policy; Irene Suarez is the Conservancy’s Senior Policy Advisor for International Climate Policy; Jeff Fiedler is the Conservancy’s Senior Policy Advisor for Climate and Forests; and Duncan Marsh, is the Conservancy’s International Climate Policy Director.

Photo by Paul Mackie/The Nature Conservancy (View from a hotel 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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