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What do the COP17 outcomes mean for us?

What the COP outcomes mean for the planet. (Click on the picture for a bigger veiw)

As we’ve seen, the COP17 outcomes can be quite difficult to wrap your head around. It’s one thing to read them, but in this blog we’d like to try and show you what they mean, both for the UNFCCC process, but also for the planet.

In our first blog in this series we spoke about the background to COP17 and the conferences that came before it. So what will future blogs say when they look back on COP17? Well, firstly, with regards to the negotiations, the Durban outcomes are detailed and comprehensive and have:

  • Mapped out a path that if implemented, will give substantive further depth to the international climate discussions.
  • Maintained Kyoto while initiating negotiations that can result in a legally enforceable outcome applicable to all countries.
  • Triggered a process to achieve the 2°C target.
  • Importantly the outcomes have given new life to UNFCCC process.
  • New mechanisms have been established to address both the mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Requirements for information and transparency on country actions and for them to be reported and scrutinised internationally have been increased.

 The Durban Platform has left some optimistic, especially when looking back at the failures of COP16 and COP15. It is understandable that some call COP17 a breakthrough. BUT this rather optimistic – and we would suggest, unrealistic view – is fiercely disputed, and not only by civil society organisations.

A 2°C rise in global temperatures would not lead to catastrophic climate change, however the 2°C target or level of ambition is now far out of reach, realistically the world is set for a 4 to 5°C temperature rise within this century. To get an idea of what this means, have a look at the graphic above from the Stern Report (formally known as The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, released in 2006). The degrees on the top of the graphic indicate the temperature rise above pre-industrial temperatures.

The agreements in the Durban Platform amount to delays (until 2020 for binding targets for all). The lack of real substance and the expected continued resistance of the major polluters contribute to the belief that the Durban Platform will not be able to actually slow down climate change sufficiently. To achieve the 2°C limit, worldwide emissions would need to definitely decrease from 2015 onwards. Currently global emissions continue to grow.

There is hope however: in the next two blogs in this series, we will look at civil society and COP 17, and finally at what you can do to help keep the planet a cool place to live. In the meantime, take a look at our website http://www.90×2030.org.za for tips and ideas to cut carbon.

 

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