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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics, Key COP17 Issues » Ready or not…

Ready or not…

Will Africa see the sun rise or set for future UN negotiations?

As COP17 looms ever closer, one must ask what outcome is reasonable to expect. According to a document released early this month, the UN has officially identified several important itemsĀ it is placing its hopes on for the Conference:

1. Building institutions to aid the response of developing countries to climate change;

2. Agreeing on a pathway for realizing emissions reductions down the road;

3. Figuring out what will become of the Kyoto Protocol.


Let’s take a quick look at each one. First, institutions exist for handling technology and financing. Developed countries, however, have yet to actually provide the money they already agreed to supply. Thus, one might expect developing countries to apply some pressure at the conference, asking for these funds to finally be made available to them. The developed world doesn’t really want to give out any money, unless in the form of private investment (which is selfishly good for them). And yet their private funds approach has failed to raise the money so far. Looks like this issue will have more tension than progress.

Second, the path forward is very unclear. The first commitment period of Kyoto ends next year and so far there is nothing to replace it. Talk in the developed group suggests getting them to sign on to another round will be difficult, while developing countries like India and China do not want to be placed under binding commitments either. Thus, finding a common path forward under the UNFCCC is likely to be quite difficult. If they cannot agree on one treaty to involve all the critical players (at least in some way, or with responsibilities that kick in down the road), then smaller multilateral agreements may come into favor rather than the UN’s “all for one” system.

This relates to the third point. If in fact Kyoto does not get an extension or successor, then it will likely be seen as a huge blow to the developing countries who have valued it so much. It may also hurt developed countries’ credibility, since they are leaving behind the only framework of legally binding emissions. Ultimately, this outcome would also require breaking the negations down into smaller pieces, possibly shattering the UNFCCC between North/South lines in the process.

Clearly the expectations for these critical issues of COP17 are less than bright. We should go over there cautiously optimistic, prepared for utter collapse and hoping for at least a minor breakthrough to maintain Cancun’s budding recovery in what has followed from Copenhagen.

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