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COP17 – the background

Civil Society protests at COP17. Picture by UNclimatechange

In 1995, the United Nations hosted the first of what was to become an annual conference on climate change. The meetings are attended by world leaders and negotiating teams from countries who are party to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The UNFCCC is a treaty which aims to prevent dangerous human interference with the planet’s climate system. Many countries are party to the UNFCCC, and the annual conferences are known as “COPs” (Conferences of the Parties to the UNFCCC).

Last December COP17 (the 17th meeting) was held in Durban. The aim of this meeting was to come up with a global agreement to reach the aims of the UNFCCC by cutting global carbon emissions.

There were low expectations of the COP process after the failure of COP15 which took place in Copenhagen. The feeling after Copenhagen was that trust in multi-lateral negotiations was lost. However, in 2010, at COP16 in Cancun, careful diplomacy partly restored faith in the multi-lateral process of UNFCCC and resulted in a detailed set of agreements:

  • Global greenhouse gas targets: Affirmation of the IPCC recommended global target to limit global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and agreement to consider a more ambitious 1.5 °C limit.
  • Mitigation commitments by developed countries: Agreement that scaled-up mitigation efforts are needed and to work towards a global goal in 2011 to substantially reduce global emissions by 2050.
  • Mitigation by developing countries: Developing country Parties agreed to take nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) to reduce business-as-usual emissions by 2020.
  • Adaptation: The Cancun Adaptation Framework was adopted and an Adaptation Committee was established and it was requested to support developing country activities with long-term, scaled-up, predictable, new and additional finance, technology, and capacity-building.
  • Financing: to put in place a Green Climate Fund, a fund set up by developed nations to assist developing nations cope with the effects of climate change.
  • Technology Transfer: to establish a Climate Technology Centre, to lead capacity building in climate change technology,
  • REDD+: A mechanism to create incentives to reduce deforestation was adopted using a phased approach including subnational activities.
  • and on Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) – enhanced reporting and review of mitigation actions and climate financing for developed countries with international assessment and review.

These were not put into operation, which set the very difficult task for Durban to “operationalise” these agreements. To add even more pressure to the Durban COP, the 1st commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a protocol linked to the UNFCCC which actually committed states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, was about to expire, meaning that states would have to commit to a second period (and an amount) of reductions.

So with all this to play for, what actually happened in Durban? The next blog in this series will discuss the outcomes of COP17 in Durban.

Glen Tyler & Robert Fischer

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2 responses to “COP17 – the background

  1. Pingback: COP17 – The Durban Platform is not an oil rig! |

  2. Pingback: What do the COP17 outcomes mean for us? |

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