COP17 Durban Climate Conference Nov 24-25
27th November 2011,
2˚C Challenge for Business Leaders | Help for climate change beginners | UK Minister Huhne speech | Hedegaard interview | Canadian Youth delegation | Finance for Green Climate Fund
11:47am GMT, 24 Nov update from Bill GunyonThe OneClimate team in Durban intends to pay more attention to the role of business in the fight against climate change than in the past. This is no easy task because we're unashamedly draped in the NGO flag, programmed to view the gap between our not-for-profit better-world missions and shareholder interests as an unbridgeable chasm.
The truth is that the corporate sector comes in as many shades of green as one of those filters in Photoshop. Take yesterday's stories for example.
First we heard the Greenpeace executive director backing up a new report on UN climate negotiations with the exhortation: "it’s time for governments to listen to the people, not the polluting corporations."
Then came news that the number of signatories of the 2˚C Challenge Communiqué has passed 325. This is the initiative of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.
The wording of the Communiqué does indeed convey an admirable sense of urgency, deliberately exposing the lily-livered political classes.
But my colleagues will doubtless observe that the text counterpoints silence on the fate of the Kyoto Protocol with repeated references to "market mechanisms", the route to private sector finance which creates considerable unease within the NGO world.
Look no further than the briefing published earlier this week by the business consultancy, Ernst and Young Climate Change and Sustainability Services . Its central question under discussion is this:
Can the US$142 billion carbon market that exists as a result of the Kyoto process survive without the backstop of internationally agreed binding targets?
The NGO dilemma in a nutshell. Our motive for binding targets is to save people and planet; the E&Y motive is to grab a share of $142 billion. Or is that unfair? I hope we get the chance to ask them.
1:14pm GMT, 24 Nov update from Bill GunyonAre you new to the world of UN climate negotiations and floundering in a thick soup of acronyms and jargon?
Don't worry, even those of us who work in this field tear our hair out with frustration at the labyrinthine political process of reaching international agreements.
Here are some resources to help out. The BBC offers a straightforward A-Z Climate Change Glossary , with not more than a couple of sentences for each item.
The Guardian flaunts rather greater ambition with The Ultimate Climate Change FAQ . It's full of good stuff but poorly organised if you're grappling with a specific piece of jargon. And try not to notice the banner advertisement for a major oil corporation.
Getting to grips with UN climate agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the talks themselves is much more difficult. You'll have to tackle this article by Lim Li Lin , a legal expert from the Third World Network without whom people like me would be lost.
If you prefer to stay on this page, here's my colleague Adam Groves on film. As a warm-up exercise for his fortnight of interviewing for OneClimate in Durban, he set himself a Mission Impossible, Understanding the UN Climate Talks in Three Minutes. I hope it works for you.
9:18pm GMT, 24 Nov update from Bill GunyonThe senior UK minister attending the Durban talks , Chris Huhne, chose a quiet day for climate change news to deliver a very long speech on the subject.
Is the old country still a player on this particular international platform? The answer is an emphatic yes, punching far beyond its weight.
The UK Climate Change Act is probably the toughest chunk of climate legislation in a major developed country, imposing 80% emissions reductions by 2050. And the UK has so far stuck to its pledge to increase foreign aid to 0.7% of national income by 2013.
Today's speech suggests that Huhne is not going to be shy to throw his weight around in Durban. Just before he departs, plans for the UK's 4th carbon budget covering the period 2023-2027 will be announced, imposing an impressive 50% reduction on 1990 emissions.
Once in Durban, Huhne will pull another rabbit out of the hat. A "package for Africa will deliver very significant UK funding" for rural energy, farmers and transport.
This may be a desperate sweetener for what the Secretary of State actually said in the speech:
It would be premature to pledge finance to the Green Fund in Durban, as the detailed rules will not have been agreed
Huhne is all in favour of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol but only if all the other players make a "commitment to commit" to a new agreement "by 2015 at the latest."
An early warning of the phraseology with no meaning that we will be tormented with in Durban.
9:27pm GMT, 24 Nov update from Bill GunyonDessima Williams from Grenada is warming up for the punchy role she invariably plays in UN climate talks on behalf of the beleaguered small island states.
Even in this brief statement from New York, she manages to knock holes in the prevailing sentiment that no agreement is possible until 2016 at the earliest.
9:43pm GMT, 24 Nov update from Bill GunyonConnie Hedegaard , European Commissioner for Climate Action has given a terrific TV interview today, the soundbites rattling off beyond my plodding ability to record them.
I guess we're all keen for confirmation of what she's been saying lately about the Kyoto Protocol, the only international treaty reining in runaway climate change:
Europe is ready to take a second commitment period but only if other countries tell us when are they willing to follow us. What will China do? What will US do? We need at least to be able to adopt a roadmap for this in Durban. That is one key ask that we have from Europe.
You can find the interview on YouTube . I'm not embedding it here because the attribution is unclear. But it's definitely Connie.
11:03am GMT, 25 Nov update from Bill GunyonIt can't be much fun being young Canadian climate activists in Durban.
Your country has reneged on its emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, it has plotted the downfall of the Protocol, and it subsidises oil companies engaged in one of the most destructive engineering projects on the planet, the Alberta tar sands.
Your only friends in Durban speak very difficult languages like Japanese, Russian and Arabic.
Undeterred, the Canadian Youth Delegation is no shrinking violet. They've presented five policy demands to the Canadian negotiators, with a preamble that echoes the Greenpeace statement earlier this week:
We demand that the government stop working on behalf of the oil industry, and start working for us
The Youth Delegation has also put together a podcast which interacts with the Occupy Toronto movement to explore connections between its broad social grievances and global climate justice.
12:23pm GMT, 25 Nov update from Bill GunyonLet's revisit yesterday's quote by UK minister, Chris Huhne: "it would be premature to pledge finance to the Green Fund in Durban." What sort of reception can he expect for that position?
Drinks all round from the Americans, of course. They signed up in Cancun for the principle of a fund to bring $100 billion per annum to developing countries by 2020 but that's as far as it goes. The US is blocking the logistics of setting up the Green Climate Fund, let alone its funding.
The Europeans are a little more forward. Earlier this month, Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Action, told the European Parliament that she wanted to "make progress on the identification of sources of finance."
Elsewhere the attitudes are rather different. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon recently told a gathering of ministers from vulnerable countries in Bangladesh: "an empty shell cannot be unanswered. We must fill this shell." The ministers themselves went further in their Dhaka Declaration:
We call upon the developed countries to make firm commitments on a progressive increase of funds with a specific and reasonable annual enhancement in the period 2013-2020
The position of the pivotal BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) is to acknowledge the impact of global economic woes but that reduced funding should nevertheless be available (see video below).
The US envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, has more radical plans. He told a press conference last week that the "advanced emerging economies" like China should "chip in" to the fund themselves.
You can see why some seasoned observers like John Vidal think we're heading for a train crash in Durban.