From the TUC

Durban diary 7: Durban roadmap under wraps?

06 Dec 2011, by in Environment

UN Climate Change Conference, DurbanTomorrow a coalition of trade unions and environmental organisations is organising a day of action on the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) here at the Durban centre. It follows a heavily supported letter sent to President Zuma this week, signed by the TUC among many others, urging him to show leadership in support of the FTT as one of the mechanisms for fighting climate change and poverty at COP17. “We will not accept rich countries’ excuse that the financial crisis prevents them from fulfilling their promise to deliver $100bn annually to fight climate change,” the letter says.

A big gesture is vital to unfreeze the main negotiations – the EU itself could get off the finance fence and call its finance Ministers to order and commit the financial flows promised so easily in Cancun. Will the UK take the lead?

The letter reminds the President that the 99% bailed out the financial sector three years ago. Yet the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, with South Africa itself one of the most unequal of nations experiencing seriously unbalanced growth.

From our meetings with European governments it’s evident that the EU is looking for a two- track outcome: a second Kyoto Protocol whereby the EU carries the greatest burden balanced by the Durban roadmap, binding all nations to a new treaty to be ratified by 2015. For the EU, we leaned that it’s vital to protect our energy intensive industries with a global deal that ensures our main competitors are faced with similar commitments to reduce emissions, rather than expose the EU to a further round of carbon leakage.

The roadmap?  Once again we are in that weird half world of virtual texts for agreement, hidden by an invisibility cloak. But essentially the roadmap commits governments to agree to negotiate a legally binding deal by 2015, which takes effect in 2020 latest. The Durban deal should involve the following elements:

  • Legal form: the roadmap must provide for a legally binding framework.
  • Process: Governments must agree to set up a new joint negotiating process starting January 2012, in the form of a new Ad Hoc Working Group (AWG).
  • Targets: the deal must have substantive content: emissions reductions targets for developed nations matched by commitments from major emerging economies like India, China, and Brazil. This involves agreeing to Common But Differentiated Responsibilities, a phrase now shorthanded to “CBDR”.
  • 2015: the target date for the Durban deal to be ratified, with 2020 the latest date by which the agreement actually takes effect.

Finance is another key factor, with the Green Climate Fund the final piece in the jigsaw, or rather, the piece that could precipitate a final agreement.

So our continuing worry here, that unions are discussing a lot today, is the “low ambition outcome” apparently sought by some of the major governments, willing to see a second Kyoto Protocol as the only binding outcome, narrowly based on essentially EU commitments. This seems to be the end game of nations like the US, India, China and others, with China and or India seeming to want to persuade the Group of 77 developing nations that this is the route ahead. South Africa certainly doesn’t want to KP to be buried on African soil. But we would say that such is the growing economic interdependence between China and some African nations that they are in a position to exert influence on, rather than be swayed by, China’s apparent low ambition strategy.