Do Not Turn the Spirit of Durban Into the Ghost of Durban!

As ECO watches the crash and burn exercise currently taking place in the Durban Platform negotiations, we thought it would be a good moment to remind Parties about the spirit that emerged during the closing plenary in Durban.

Durban was a critical turning point for the future of the climate regime. While it resulted in what negotiators called a delicate balance, it left much for the Parties to do afterwards, in particular the need to tackle the glaring gap in reducing global emissions and providing climate finance. ECO was relieved that after hard fought battles, a sense of responsibility and leadership prevailed in Durban. Parties were willing to set aside their hardline positions in the interest of reaching an agreement, for both pre-2020 and post-2020 periods.

ECO recognizes that it essentially took the G77+China and the EU to save the day – with the EU's positive moves of agreeing to sign on to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. In doing so, it helped keep alive the only legally binding agreement on climate, as well as restoring some faith amongst developing countries. In turn, these countries agreed to be part of a new global climate regime that would be applicable to all in the future. This was a huge leap of faith on their part, in a context where very little leadership in taking ambitious actions on either reduction of emissions or delivery of finance has been demonstrated by developed countries. 

But as the dust settled, ECO realized that not all governments were that generous. Somehow in the cut and thrust of those last moments in Durban, a band of countries managed to escape the glare of the headlights. The largest developed country polluters, like the US, Canada, Russia and Japan, did not offer anything by way of compromise. Instead, some jumped ship from the Kyoto Protocol, while the US dug in its heels when asked to commit to comparable emissions reduction actions – both on common accounting and an adequate target. ECO reckons that they must have been rubbing their hands in glee when they got away without having to make any commitments. They now see an opportunity to lock in their precious “pledge and review system”. They apparently believe that their status in the pre-2020 period is equal to that of developing countries and that this bottom-up, non-science-based, non-equity based approach is all that we should be getting.

The only way to avoid this fate, and ensure non-Kyoto developed countries honour their commitments to comparability, and yes, even QELROs, is through the AWG-LCA, where pre-2020 mitigation ambition for non-Kyoto parties will have to be addressed in a principled, rules-based manner, comparable to Kyoto parties. ECO observes that’s why these countries are the most resistant to addressing their commitments and responsibilities under the LCA.

The AWG-LCA should complete its work and the process must determine mitigation action for these countries. The spotlight is therefore shining on them once again, and they will be expected to offer comparable action. And so, we wonder, what will they offer?  ECO sees that they are now seeking cover from taking responsibility by trying to jump to the Durban Platform.

While ambition should also be pursued under all tracks, ECO wants to remind the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and others who have not joined the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that they are developed countries, with clear obligations under the Convention and Bali Action Plan, and in terms of history, morality and legality. ECO  challenges Australia and New Zealand to decide which way they will jump – ECO will be the first to welcome them into Annex B with QELROs that lead to a fair share of real gross emissions reductions.

You all must shine with the spirit of Durban – there is no darkness left to fade into.