The high-level part of the climate negotiations started today, with 12 head of states and 130 ministers. Many events are taking place under the leadership of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, together with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Cristiana Figueres, the President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, Sir Nicholas Stern, and many others.
However, there is still no text ready to be presented for political decision-making.
In the meantime, high-level officials began outlining their positions and are talking to each other.
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It was a working weekend here at the conference – and, like all the delegates, we’ve been reading through the “amalgamation” text and its addendum, which was shared on Saturday. (“Amalgamation” was supposed to show that the text goes beyond simply compilation, however many did not agree that it succeeded.)
It’s the product of one week of negotiations under the Convention track, and compiles all the issues to create the basis for a comprehensive and balanced outcome to be presented to the Conference of the Parties for adoption. However the text still contains a variety of options, some of which are controversial, and many areas of disagreement. It cannot be presented to the ministers for adoption in its current shape. A lot of work still remains to be done by Wednesday.
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According to surveys, it is the region of central and Eastern Europe that has the most thorough freedom of information legislation in the world. Before rejoicing, however, one needs to think of two problems: first, implementation of the law remains patchy, and second, in the era of web 2.0, FOIA (Freedom of Information) laws are bit of an old hat.
Having the right to ask for the information is, of course, crucial, but no longer good enough. Governments should be providing much of the information automatically online, without citizens having to ask for it (and hence having to know what is actually available). Moreover, such information should be provided in a clear and easy-to-understand manner, preferably well searchable and re-usable (in so-called open data standards).
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As the last region to hold its Preparatory Meeting for the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the United Nations Commission for Europe (UNECE) region is a bit of a test case for the global debate since it includes low, medium, and high-income countries. For the first two days of December, 350 representatives of governments, academic experts, United Nations, civil society and business organizations exchanged their proposals for what will come out of the meeting in Rio de Janeiro. (See: speech of UNDP regional deputy director Jens Wandel – well worth the read.)
What is at stake?
This regional debate touches the heart of the development conundrum. Daniel Ziegerer of Switzerland described the issue as the intersection between economic development, social justice and environmental protection. We at UNDP asked the question: is fossil fuel driven growth, which leaves a large gap between rich and poor, human development? Joachim Spangenberg put it this way: how do we look at two key questions: How do you transform economic advancement into something about humans rather than profit? And how do we imagine economic growth within the framework of actual planetary constraints?
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Today in Durban parties to the climate conference met once again to discuss the legal form of the outcome from the meeting. Will it be a new agreement, a protocol or any other form requiring ratification or will it be some kind of decision which is not legally binding?
A “menu” of legal options was put on the table by the chair, from which participant countries had to make a choice. Clearly the menu on offer included some options that would be difficult for many to digest:
- Legally binding instrument(s)
- Decisions including:- A mandate to define a legally binding instrument with a clear roadmap- Affirming the importance of a legally binding outcome to provide clarity and vision- A statement/declaration regarding future instrument(s), leaving the legal form open to discussion- Continuing to substantively address all pillars of the Bali Action Plan (pdf) trough Conference of Parties decisions
Developing countries are clearly in favour of option one. However, it seems that before there is more clarity substance, an agreement on the exact form will not be reached. So the parties have to decide not only on what to agree on but also in what form. Simple enough, one would have thought, but the implications are far-reaching.
If you are interested in all the complexities of legal form, we can recommend the newly published WRI report on The Challenge of Legal Form at the Durban Climate Talks.
Previous posts from Durban
These amazing lads will be with you for all of tomorrow (December 1st) - World Aids Day – tweeting and replying to your tweets on issues related to HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe, Caucasus andCentral Asia (follow them at @UNDP_Europe_CIS)
They both work for our HIV, health and development team that seeks to promote and protect the rights of key populations such as injecting drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men. The team also works to help national health systems mitigate the effects of HIV, tuberculosis and other health challenges.
Dudley works with countries in Europe andCentral Asia to promote sustainable financing for HIV treatment and the enforcement of laws that protect people living with HIV.
John has been working on HIV, health and development issues in Eastern Europe andCentral Asia since 2004. He currently focuses on the identification and dissemination of good practices.
“Are minority rights different?” this is a typical question I am often asked by participants and peers whenever I raise the issue of the protection of minorities under international human rights law. My first response is no, which is generally followed by a more lengthy response. Minority rights form part of human rights. Persons belonging to minorities are entitled to equal freedom of all human rights, which, in turn, make a fundamental contribution to human development. Minorities have different perspectives that enrich the analysis of development and help identify solutions to difficult challenges.
However the realities on the ground are somewhat different from the theory. Inclusion of minorities in national planning and development processes proves to be difficult. Politics (of all forms), and political considerations play a less than conducive role, to put it mildly. Often, minorities are demanded to demonstrate their loyalty to states without adequate or necessary reciprocity i.e., inclusion, tolerance and social protection.
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In climate change meetings, there is a constant endeavor to improve the rules, procedures and geographical distribution of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): the instrument whereby emission-reduction projects in developing countries can earn certified emission reduction credits. In spite of these efforts, the uncertainties regarding its existence and sustained demand in the post 2012 era still remain. Yet, the establishment of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol is vital for the continuation of the CDM.
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There are rumors in the corridors of Durban (and beyond) that Canada is planning to officially withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Although neither denied nor confirmed at the moment, they disrupt the momentum of the negotiations. The US position—repeated in its press conference on Monday afternoon—that it does not favor discussing a broader agreement at this time, is adding another layer of complexity.
Another sour drop are the discussions that occurred at the last meeting of the Transitional Committee for the design and transparency of the Green Climate Fund, which took place in October. The meeting, which had aimed to conclude discussions ahead of COP 17, ended without consensus to adopt the Committee’s final report. The report was sent to the COP for consideration and approval; however, some think this will be a “bargaining chip” to be traded off later in the negotiations.
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194 countries are currently meeting in Durban for two weeks to decide how the future of the international climate change regime will look like in the next decade. 35,000 participants are expected to attend the conference in Durban, including Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelina Jolie and the Princess of Monaco.
The first day was “business as usual”: general statements reiterating the already known positions. Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, expressed his hopes that COP17 (that’s how people in the field call the meeting) will deliver balanced and positive outcomes. Other senior speakers – including the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Cristiana Figueres, the president to the previous meeting (yes, you guessed right!, COP16) Patricia Espinosa (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico), the current president South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the president of Angola and the vice-president of Chad all expressed their positive expectations for the conference.
However, a few minutes later, when the formal plenary session of the COP17 had started, the by now familiar problems with the adoption of the agenda took place (see here for our account of previous drama related to the agenda definition in Bangkok).
The time for negotiations is very limited, considering the complicated agenda and the fact that the high level talk will start on December 6th.
Will tomorrow bring a breakthrough? Watch this space…