UN climate deal salvaged in Durban

Updated: 2011-12-12 07:58

By Lan Lan and Li Jing (China Daily)

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DURBAN, South Africa - After sleepless, extended negotiations, exhausted delegates from more than 190 nations managed to keep the world's only legally binding emission treaty alive.

Governments, including those representing 38 industrialized countries, agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol which is due to expire next year. The extension, from Jan 1, 2013 until the end of 2017, was agreed after the two-week climate conference, scheduled to end on Friday, was extended to Sunday and saw some negotiators bring their luggage to the final meeting so that they could dash to the airport when it finished.

Negotiators also agreed to start work next year on a new arrangement that will cover all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The work will end by 2015 and come into force by 2020.

Currently, only industrialized countries have legally binding emission targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

China's top climate change negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, welcomed the package of measures, known as the Durban Platform.

"The meeting decided on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, the biggest concern for developing countries," Xie said.

A Green Climate Fund was also set up. This mechanism, in principle, will channel up to $100 million to poorer countries facing worsening floods, drought and rising seas.

Negotiators decided to start a process on the arrangement for a post-2020 climate regime, which would have legal force, Xie said.

The decision is believed to be a compromise between India and the European Union. The EU had insisted that any climate regime should be legally binding on all countries.

India said it does not want to sign a "blank check". That posi-tion is supported by China.

"The outcome is fully in accordance with the mandate of the UN Climate Change Convention and its Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap, the two-track negotiation process and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities," Xie told a group of journalists after the conference ended.

However, the outcome did not fully meet the criteria of the Bali Roadmap, Xie said. In addition, much remains to be done on the post-2020 climate regime, Xie said.

"What needs to be pointed out is that developed countries lack the political will to reduce emissions and provide finance and the transfer of technology to support developing countries, which is a major obstacle for international cooperation in addressing climate change."

South Africa's foreign minister said the meeting had made progress.

"We have taken crucial steps forward for the common good and the global citizenry today," Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who also acted as president of the Durban UN Climate Change Conference, said in a statement.

The United States, which did not join the Kyoto Protocol and has been criticized for delaying a deal at the Durban talks, said it backs the package in general.

"This is a very significant package. None of us likes everything in it. Believe me, there is plenty the United States is not thrilled about," said US climate envoy Todd Stern.

Industrialized countries' continued commitment to the Kyoto Protocol's accounting rules, mechanisms and markets will act as a model for future agreements, said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Su Wei, China's chief climate change negotiator, said after the meeting that this year's negotiations were extremely tough and one of the most drawn-out in his experience as a negotiator. "It's hard to say if it's a satisfying result or not, but we are about to finish the conference successfully and I think that's a great achievement after the arduous negotiations," Su said.

China stepped up efforts in promoting its image during the Durban meeting and set up its first China pavilion on site.

The pavilion hosted about 23 seminars and events to showcase the country's efforts in combating climate change.

"The country has made much greater efforts to show that they are playing a constructive role in negotiations since Copenhagen," said Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability and climate change at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

That summit, in the Danish capital in 2009, came under fire for its perceived lack of progress.