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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Conservation, Environmental Justice, Environmental Politics, Featured, Key COP17 Issues, Student Research » What to expect in Durban (if anything):

What to expect in Durban (if anything):

Claire Tighe ’13

The climate change negotiations happening just a few days from now will be covering quite a few topics. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (which hosts the Conference of the Parties, or “COP”), the conference in Durban (COP17), “will bring together representatives of the world’s governments, international organizations and civil society […] to advance, in a balanced fashion, the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action Plan, agreed at COP 13 in 2007, and the Cancun Agreements, reached at COP 16 last December.”

The issues to be discussed at COP17 seem almost endless. Everything from mitigation of greenhouse gases, the future of the Kyoto Protocol, adaptation to climate change and how to finance it, the project of reforestation, and the possible death of the UNFCCC in general fill the agenda. As complicated and intertwined as all of these issues are, they can almost be tweezed out into 5 “key issues”:

1.) Finance

2.) Mitigation and MRV (Measurable, Reportable and Varifiable)

3.) Adaptation

4.) REDD (or “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”)

5.) and Ambition of world leaders to make this process work.

What is realistic for expectations of COP17?

So, looks like there’s a lot on the agenda. What are some reasonable expectations for the outcomes of the Durban conference? For one thing, let’s hope that South Africa can follow in the footsteps of Cancún by making the negotiating process a bit more North/South friendly. Without many lead negotiators and policy makers feeling particularly enthused about the success of COP17, it’s hard to believe that much of anything can be accomplished. You can check out my more specific discussion of this topic here.

As I’ve said before, the success of international negotiations depends on the iteration of meetings. More meetings, more success. Richard Black echoes a similar sentiment in his article, “Durban: a summit of small steps?” There’s just so much to be done at COP17, maybe making small steps is the best way to go about things. The way South Africa hosts the conference will make a world of difference in allowing all of these issues to be discussed simultaneously.

With the developing countries finding disagreement with the developed countries, the need for a legally binding agreement for when the Kyoto commitment period ends is maybe the most demanding (aside from adaptation for the most vulnerable and a host of other issues). Countries like the Maldives are still waiting for this. However, I am still skeptical of this outcome at COP17. At best, I believe that the negotiations will result in an agreement to continue to discuss the need for further action as the Kyoto committment period ends. Change is slow in international negotiations. Unfortunately, climate change is not.



 Black, Richard. “Durban: A Summit of Small Steps.” BBC NEWS online. October 31, 2011.

 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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3 Responses to "What to expect in Durban (if anything):"

  1. Hello Claire,
    Good summary. I thought I would direct you to this article. There is a lot of buzz in the NGO community toward reaching more clarity on agriculture.

    Also, now that you and the COP17 crew have done a lot of prep for the COP17, I am curious to know your oppinion on how this conference may feed into/impact Rio+20 negotiations.

  2. Claire says:

    I guess I’m also skeptical about Rio+20 in June…how quickly can countries really phase out their fossil fuels?

    I hate to say it, but I guess some negotiations are better than none. The only thing is, what’s the point of negotiating if the world is still subject to dangerous climate change in the very near future, and whatever we decide, will still not be good enough?

  3. […] that industry’s to-date inspiring continued growth in limbo.  And the sentiment going into Durban/COP 17, the South African cliamte conference, elicits not much in the way of […]

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