Ministers begin their work

 by Samuli Sinisalo

The ministerial Indaba-consultations about the Durban outcome begin tonight. In front of them, the ministers have five options for the possible outcome. No decision is not amongst them at this level.

The first option is to implement a new legal instrument under article 17 of the convention. This would mean that the contents of the new instrument can be anything – made up in Durban.

Option two is to complete an agreed outcome based on the Bali Action Plan. Then the outcome would build on what that LCA track has negotiated since 2007. It would address Shared Vision, Adaptation, Mitigation, Technology Transfer and Finance.

Third option is to conclude the aforementioned BAP pillars through a series of decisions. This takes into account work done in Cancun and Durban. Fourth option is to implement BAP and the Cancun Agreements.

Option five is to complete the BAP and Cancun agreements through a series of decisions and begin a process to develop post-2020 arrangements/legally binding instruments. These negotiations could either take place in the LCA group, or within a new subsidiary body. Suggestions for timeline vary from 2012 to 2017.

Any of the above mentioned options can be described as a partial success – at least on the surface. What is common to all of them is the lack of ambition. That much seems granted at the moment. Only numbers on the table at the moment are those pledged in Copenhagen and cemented in Cancun. They put the world on a 4-6 degrees Celsius pathway.

Fortunately the EU proposed text today under the KP track that would enable countries to increase their ambition level in future. Similar designs have worked under the Montreal Protocol. But the climate negotiations are currently suffering from lack of political will for more ambitious emission reductions, and a mechanism by itself is not going to change that, or save the planet. It has to be used as well.

Further, the briefing paper for the ministerial Indaba mentions that the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities might be dynamic. The responsibilities specified for developed and developing countries might be redefined and renegotiated. Up to now, developed countries emissions reductions actions have been conditional on financial support from the developed world.

Friday night will tell what the final package is. It seems that things are in motion in Durban, and something will come out. Whether it is a real solution, or an empty shell is yet to see. There are positive signals for a potential outcome, but the risk of getting empty declarations instead of real solutions is still looming. Total failure is not likely, but neither is complete success.

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