Deal in sight at COP17

06 December 2011 - 02:14 By NIVASHNI NAIR and MATTHEW GAYLARD
Frauke Heesing, Ingrid Diener and Gina van Dyk, right, protest against the use of nuclear power by countries taking part in the COP17 climate talks at the Global Action March in Durban.
Frauke Heesing, Ingrid Diener and Gina van Dyk, right, protest against the use of nuclear power by countries taking part in the COP17 climate talks at the Global Action March in Durban.
Image: Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

The cards laid on the table yesterday signalled that the deadlock over the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund might break before COP17 wraps up in Durban at the end of the week.

"What is pleasing is that we are beginning to see cards coming onto the table on the very first day of the arrival of the ministers so that ministers can start in all earnest dealing with the specific difficult political questions," COP17 president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said yesterday.

Nkoana-Mashabane and top UN climate official Christiana Figueres told journalists that a resolution on the second-commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was no longer a question of "if" but "how".

Figueres said that though there were "no promises", the chairman of the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol had made public his assessment that participating countries were seriously considering bringing a second commitment period into effect.

Their comments came immediately after China, the world's worst carbon emitter and one of the countries that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, hinted that it was ready to commit itself to a legally binding agreement.

"China is laying its cards on the table. And that is what makes us hopeful that we are moving in the right direction," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

China's pledge has now moved the focus to the US, another major emitter, which refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol unless China also signed.

Though the Kyoto Protocol, which commits 37 developed countries to reducing carbon emissions to 5% below their 1990 levels by 2012, is nearing its expiry, Canada, Russia and Japan are refusing to sign on for a second commitment period.

On the Green Climate Fund, which is aimed at making $100-billion available to developing countries by 2020 to mitigate the effects of climate change, Nkoana-Mashabane said she had not heard a single delegation saying "No" to it.

"We have not heard a single delegation saying it should not, or could not, be launched in Durban. I haven't heard of it," she said.


THE mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol are insufficient to deal with high CO2 emissions, experts argued at yesterday's Summit on Health and Climate change.

Speaking at the summit at the COP17 conference in Durban, Hugh Montgomery from the UK's Climate and Health Council questioned whether it was realistic to depend on the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol considering the record high in emissions last year.

Referring to the living planet index, Montgomery cited impacts and losses to ecological systems as having the greatest link to effects on health.

He said these impacts were more significant than climate change's impacts on the range of the malaria parasite, often mentioned as a lead indicator on the effect that climate change has on health.

Hunger and malnutrition, which are strongly linked to the effects of climate change on food security, continue to be a leading cause of death in the developing world.

Nnimmo Bassey from the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth delivered a searing indictment of the destructive effect of fossil fuel extraction, arguing that these impacts far outweigh any benefits that the profits so accrued deliver to the affected communities.

He quoted Kwame Nkrumah, saying that neo-colonialism is "power without responsibility and for those who suffer, exploitation without redress".

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