What Next -- Climate Watch

The inconvenient truth

The inconvenient truth
Sunita Narain, Centre for Science and Environment, February 1, 2012

Many years ago, in a desperately poor village in Rajasthan, people decided to plant trees on the land adjoining their pond so that its catchment would be protected. But this land belonged to the revenue department and people were fined for trespass. The issue hit national headlines. The stink made the local administration uncomfortable. They then came up with a brilliant game plan—they allotted the land to a group of equally poor people. In this way the poor ended up fighting the poor. The local government got away with the deliberate murder of a water body.

I recall this tragic episode as I watch recent developments on climate change.
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The politics of climate change and the global crisis

Check out this new book by Praful Bidwai, who's been associated with the What Next initiative since the very beginning. The book came out just before the Durban meeting and discusses, among other things, climate change in both an international equity context as well as the Indian domestic equity context. Below a brief about the book from the Transnational Institute website.
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Post-Durban, India has its task cut out

Interesting analysis and reflections on what happened in Durban and India's role.
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Major Clash of Paradigms in the Durban Climate Talks

South Centre bulletin 58
Here is a detailed account and analysis by Meena Raman of Third World Network of what happened in the dramatic end of the Durban COP17 negotiations, and implications for the future. The article was originally published in South Centre's South Bulletin (

Download a pdf-version of the whole issue here. Link to South Centre web page here.

Major Clash of Paradigms in the Durban Climate Talks
[South Bulletin 58 Article]

By Meena Raman

The main outcome of the two-week Durban climate change conference was the launching of a new round of negotiations known as the Durban Platform aimed at a new regime (whether a protocol or other legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and involving all countries.

The draft decision on this was provided at an informal plenary late on the night of Saturday 10 December long after the Conference was scheduled to end and when many Ministers and senior officials had already left Durban.

It was given to participants as part of a package of four decisions on a take-it-or-leave it basis with little time for the members to consider or discuss among themselves in an unusual and unprecedented set of procedures.
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Time out: Analysis of Durban and its outcome by Centre for Science and Environment

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What really happened in Durban? Check out this extensive coverage by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India, in their magazine Down to Earth, 31 December issue.

The 17th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Durban in December 2011. Negotiations were heated and acrimonious, as the world desperately searched for new ways to avoid the toughest of questions -- how to drastically reduce emissions to keep the world somewhat within safe levels and how to do this while ensuring equity. With uneasy answers, the easy solution was to push the world to another round of messy negotiations for a new treaty, protocol or legal instrument or something like that. But one move of the developed world was to change the nature of the original treaty that differentiates between past polluters, responsible for the first action, and the rest. The aim at Durban was to erase equity as the basis of any global agreement to cut emissions. Ironically, the world chose the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela to set the scene to build a new apartheid in climate talks. Down To Earth and the Centre for Science and Environment bring you an analysis…

To continute read, download the 17-page pdf-version of the thorough feature story with graphs, boxes and explanations. Or click here to find the original story at the CSE website.

You may also want to read this prophetic reflection by Sunita Narain of CSE, only a few hours before the COP finally ended.

And -- here's a link to a Guardian article by Sunita Narain "The EU's climate evangelism has got us nowhere: Europe must stop trying to bend developing countries to agree to a legal deal in the hope that this will bring the US on board", published 9 December.
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On the "Durban Platform for Enhanced Action"

The decision to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on the "Durban Platform for Enhanced Action" (DPEA), i.e. the controversial "Durban Mandate", was a remarkable show of bad process in the last hours of the conference -- already on 30 hours overtime with many Ministers (particularly from developing countries) already on their way home.

The implications will be felt for a long time to come…

We are likely to see an erosion of the science-based "top-down" (i.e. starting with emissions reductions as deemed required based on science) principled climate regime of the Kyoto Protocol -- with a further shift towards the US-championed voluntary, bottom-up "pledge" system where countries just notify what they intend to do: currently this amounts to only 13-18% cuts by the rich countries (which could in reality amount to zero cuts due to the extensive "loopholes" that the rich countries refuse to remove). It's naive to believe that pledges will be sufficient to ramp up commitments towards the 40-50% that is needed by 2020, and the the 90-100% needed by 2050!

The mandate for the new agreement is remarkable open, which paves the ground for endless negotiations with little prospect to reach anywhere near the regime -- the Bali Action Plan -- that was still the basis for negotiations when the Durban meeting started. There are also reasons to be very worried from an equity and climate justice perspective -- although the new platform is placed under the Climate Convention with its fundamental principle of "common but differentiated responsibility", USA and other Annex 1 countries will press hard to erode any equity related mechanisms.

In short, by opening up for the Durban mandate, the world has given a blank check to the US and others to effectively stall and weaken the future climate regime -- while squandering the relative firm basis that already existed: the Bali Action Plan. Considering the effectiveness of the US negotiations since Copenhagen (they have likely attained most of their stated goals), and the dismal domestic political situation (with climate change denying Republicans dominating Congress, and Obama acting more destructive than George W Bush as he actively steers the world onto the wrong path rather than just standing aside), it is naive to believe there could be anything meaningful coming out of open-ended negotiations on the DPEA over the next few years.
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Climate justice policy briefs: Loopholes, pledges and the Bali Mandate

Below three One-page Climate Justice Policy Briefs that highlights key issues at stake in Durban:

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A comparison of pledges: Who plans to Act?

There is a serious lack of emissions reductions ambitions by the rich countries. There has so far been NO discussion or negotiation in Durban about increasing ambitions form the paltry Copenhagen "pledges" – which amounts to only 13-18% reductions by the rich, Annex 1 countries, compared to 1990. The Policy Brief "A comparison of pledges: who plans to act?" summarizes the Stockholm Environment Institute overview study from June 2011 which shows that four independent studies come to the same conclusions: Developing countries have committed to MORE reductions than the rich countries!

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Targets could disappear into loopholes

On top of these shamefully low pledges by the Annex 1 countries, these countries refuse to remove the current loopholes from excess allocations to the former Eastern European countries ("hot air"), disingenuous accounting of forests, and double counting of off-sets. Research shows that all of the current Annex 1 pledges could be covered by loopholes, negating any pressure to really reduce emissions -- and possibly even allowing for net increase of emissions by the rich countries.

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Building on the Bali Mandate
The controversy about whether to allow a new Durban Mandate or insist on the fulfillment of the current Bali Mandate through the Bali Action Plan constitute a fundamental crossroads.. At the core, this controversy is about the very nature of the climate regime: whether to open up for a voluntary "pledge and review" system with less clear equity concerns, or to keep a principled, top-down, binding approach with clear differentiation between developing and developed countries.

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New report: Reclaiming Power -- An energy model for people and the planet

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Check out this new report speaking in favour of a system of globally funded feed-in tariffs to promote energy sovereignty and community empowerment in developing countries while simultaneously redirecting investments to fossil-free, renewable energy as a way of tackling climate change in a bold, transformative manner. The 16-page report is produced by Friends of the Earth England, North Ireland and Wales in collaboration with What Next Forum, and was released during COP17 in Durban.

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Is China still a devleoping country?

Below an article that provides perspectives on one of the most critical and contested issues in connection to the climate negotiations: that of China's role and responsibility. See also material from the What Next seminar China's Action on Climate Change and Possibilities for EU-China Collaboration (scroll down to 6 September).
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The article is written by Martin Khor, Director of the South Centre, and originally published by South Centre in SUNS #7265, 22 November 2011.

Is China still a developing country, or has it joined the ranks of the advanced developed countries?

This has become a topical question, especially after US President Barack Obama reportedly told the Chinese President Hu Jintao last week that China had to act more responsibly, now that it has "grown up."

This interesting one-to-one conversation took place at the APEC Summit in Hawaii. And when Obama met Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at the East Asia Summit hosted by ASEAN in Bali last week, he must have said something similar, in between scolding him for not allowing the Chinese currency to shoot up.

By telling China that it has become a grown-up adult, Obama meant that China should now be treated just like the US or Europe in terms of international obligations
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Caravan of Hope: From Burundi to Durban

Did you know 300 African climate justice activists are travelling through the continent for the Climate talks in Durban? And stopping along the way to engage with politicians, media and the public in every county they pass. Check out this inspiring story from the road – published in The Guardian.

And check out the homepage of the organizers: the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) here.
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Time for Climate Justice: Christian Aid's Durban positions

Here is a six-page Durban position paper from Christian Aid -- Time for Climate Justice. Also, check out their new report Low-carbon Africa: Leapfrogging to a green future
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Bill McKibben: "We won. You won" On the Keystone XL pipline victory

Below an inspiring letter from Bill McKibben of 350.org.
Dear Friends,

We won. You won.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that we’ve been fighting for months has been effectively killed. The President didn’t outright reject the Keystone XL pipeline permit, but a few minutes ago he sent the pipeline back for a thorough re-review that will delay it til 2013. Most analysts agree: the pipeline will never get built.
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Canada -- Terrible position ahead of Durban

Below is an official statement from Canada ahead of the Durban climate negotiations. As rightly acknowledged, this position will cause "turbulence" in the coming weeks. The rejection of taking on a second commitment period target under the Kyoto protocol is an act against Canada's legal obligations, and an outright provocation to developing countries.

Basically, the Canadian position (and that of so many other "developed" (Annex 1) countries) is a rejection of the fundamental equity principle of the climate convention itself: "Common but Differentiated Responsibility". The whole point of the Kyoto protocol is that it put higher demands on the countries with historical responsibility and capability to take the lead, while the other components of the Bali plan from 2007 include all the other emissions: the US agreeing to deliver "comparable efforts" to the Kyoto countries, and the developing countries doing their fair share enabled by appropirate finance, technology, capacity building etc.

The Bali plan thus includes 100% of global emissions. Annex 1 countries must take the lead; only then can they put legitimate demands on others (see an excellent short reflection on this by Sivan Kartha, Stockholm Environment Institute). There may be a case for reconsidering the division of the world into two Annexes, but that can not be done now, with the developed countries shifting goalposts and escaping their obligations and unfulfilled promises since decades.
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A compilation of material on Climate Justice

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This compilation (available as pdf) includes 13 climate justice briefs and a 7-page document, originally produced for the World Social Forum 2011, with a narrative of the the politics on climate change – including exposure of the Copenhagen and Cancún failures – as well as elaboration of climate justice principles and the need for major popular mobilization. The material was developed through collaboration among many climate justice oriented organizations and provides a valuable departure point for looking ahead towards the Durban negotiations.
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On the EU 2015 climate 'roadmap'

Below an AFP account of the EU 2015 climat 'roadmap'. When reading it, do note the following:

  • Although the EU has changed rhetoric/strategy to now endorsing a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol (contrary to the 'single treaty' line that what was pushed under the Swedish presidency ahead of Copenhagen), it is essentially a very similar strategy: EU says it will only accept a second commitment period if there are guarantees all major economies will be included with binding commitments in a new roadmap (essentially a 'single treaty'). However, this is clearly shifting the goalposts, and includes no guarantees for adequate financing and technology for enabling developing countries to meet the huge adaptation neeeds and move to low-carbon societies. EU needs to fulfill its obligations to enter a second commitment period with ambitious targets unconditional of what other countries do. Only then can it begin to legitimately discuss other arrangements for subsequent periods – which needs to be based on clear equity principles.
  • According to the AFP citation, Hedegaards says the "Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012". This is a blatant error that has been repeated innumerable times by Western journalists, politicians and even in official UNFCCC communications. The Kyoto protocol does NOT expire. Period. The first commitment period comes to and end, and should be followed by a second commitment period according to the legally binding provisions in the protocol.
  • See also the arguments around the "limited scope" ("only a third of global emissions") of the Kyoto protocol in this related post. The Kyoto protocol is part of a package of mechanisms that together cover 100% of global emissions. 
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What happened in Panama?

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What happened at the climate talks in Panama -- the last negotiation session before COP17 in Durban 28 Nov -9 Dec 2011? Check out the Third World Network detailed reports from the negotiations through their 18 (!) TWN Panama News Updates. Downloadable as PDF-documents from the TWN website.
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Panama opening assessment

UNFCCC negotiations – 3 October 2011

Panama – Best and Last Chance to get Negotiations Back on Track
Check out this 4-page civil society assessment explaining the key issues at stake at the Panama climate negotiation session 1-7 October 2011 – the last session before COP17 in Durban.
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New SEI report: Developing countries pledge more climate action than developed nations

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Check out this new report "Comparison of Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 pledges under the Cancun Agreements" from Stockholm Environment Insitute (SEI) concluding that developing countries are pledging more climate action than developed countries. The study was done by Pete Erickson and Sivan Kartha, SEI, and presented at the Bonn negotiations in June 2011.

Here is a link to the SEI webpage with a summary of the report.

You can read an Oxfam press release based on the SEI analysis here.

You can also watch a video (at the UNFCCC website) from a South Centre press conference at the Bonn negotiations with Sivan Kartha presenting the report.

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Cancún outcomes

Here is a summary of the key outcomes of COP 16 in Cancún. Positive outcomes are in green, negative outcomes are in red, and neutral/ambivalent outcomes are in grey. So, according to this mind map one could summarize the Cancun meeting as around 85% bad and 15% good. However, some of the bad outcomes are very significant, particularly the move towards a paradigm shift of pledge & review rather than the clear, legally binding principles of the Kyoto Protocol.

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Click on the map for a hi-resolution version for viewing online or printing (comes out best in A3-format).
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