GBM Blog

A Day in the Life of a Climate Talks Attendee

December 15, 2011 - 06:05AM
Published by Benjamin Kimani

It is 5:30 pm in Durban on 6th of December 2011, the 9th Day of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties (CMP 7) to the Kyoto Protocol. The High-level segment has started and I am sitting watching the big screens in the second row in the King Protea Plenary hall, which is an overflow area from the main plenary hall- the Baobab hall. I am in the midst of the COP17 negotiations. Since I arrived in Durban for COP17 every morning I have taken a 25 minute bus ride from Umhlanga up the coast on the Indian Ocean, to the conference centre the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC). At the start of the day I am very keen to get a copy of the daily programme to familiarize myself with the happenings of the day and a few documents highlighting the previous day's negotiation sessions. I am often torn between what events to attend as there is so much going on in various locations both inside the ICC and beyond and my day is spent attending negotiation meetings, that are open to observers and NGOs, attending official side events and press briefings. It is important to be up to speed with the current status of the climate change negotiations.

Today’s opening of the High-level Segment is facilitated by the President of COP17 Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. She started by inviting the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC Ms.Christiana Figueres to update Heads of States and Heads of Delegation of parties on the progress made in the past week. She highlighted a number of issues, many which directly linked to the support of developing countries, including:

National adaptation plans, the Nairobi work programme for promoting adaptation actions and a work programme on loss and damage from climate change impacts;

  • The Green Climate Fund;
  • The conditions for safely supporting the reductions of emissions from deforestation;
  • The governing arrangements for the Technology Mechanism;
  • Further progress on monitoring, reporting and verification; and increasing clarity on how to take forward the review.

Ms Figueres stated that the delegates at COP17 has during the last weeks created the conditions in order to achieve a solution to climate change but that it is now up to the ministers to ‘craft the solutions’. She said that the solutions must ensure that:

  • There is clarity on the contours of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and that an implementation gap is ruled out;
  • That there is clarity on how to achieve strong rules-based rigour and structure in the global effort to tackle climate change going forward;
  • That there is clarity on how to avoid an ambition gap; and that there is clarity on how funds will be scaled up from now until 2020.

UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon was next up and urged delegates to carefully consider the 2nd Commitment under the Kyoto Protocol. He told of how a young boy earlier this year from the island of Kiribati told him of his fear of sleeping in their home at night, because the young's man island was slipping beneath the waves. There are many such islands in the Pacific and elsewhere. The young man was afraid that he will be swept away by the tide while sleeping.

Ban Ki Moon described a variety of different consequences of climate change ranging from the melting glaciers in the Andes and the Alps to miles and miles of devastated virgin forest and peat land in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The question which he asked was simple yet so powerful "Is this the future we want?" a world of out-of-control climate change and a devastating scarcity of vital resources? A world divided bitterly between rich and poor, and the vulnerable and the privileged? Or do we want a sustainable future that fulfils the promise of the United Nations Charter? He confirmed that the answer is clear, even if the exact path is not.

Thereafter President Jacob Zuma, the President of the Republic of South Africa, took the stage and stated that there is a need to make a decision here in Durban, a decision that will take in consideration both present and future needs. President Zuma stressed that there is a need to agree on the adoption of the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol as well as the possibility of enhanced mechanisms and the eligibility of participation within that. Such an agreement should entail the adoption of an amendment of Annexure B of the Kyoto Protocol, with re-assurances that Parties will implement the amendment domestically by the end of 2012. Also, that parties must agree on the formalization and implementation of the mitigation pledges of developed countries and the rules of comparability between the pledges of those Parties of the Kyoto Protocol and those Parties outside the Kyoto Protocol. President Zuma said that the rules to assure comparability need to be finalized as soon as possible and an agreement on adaptation, the establishment of the Green Climate Fund, finance, technology transfer and capacity building must also be part of the agreement in Durban.

After President Zuma the COP 17 President declared the High Level Segment officially open. An impressive list of Heads of State from Africa spoke including Mr. Meles Zenawi the Prime of Ethiopia , Mr. Ali Bongo the President of Gabon, and Mr Denis Sassou Nguesso the President of the Republic of Congo. Mr Sprent Dabwido the president of Nauru. and Prince Albert II, the Head of State of Monaco also addressed the delegates.

After the High-level Segment I am planning to attend the President informal stock taking between 6pm and 7pm and then I will call it a day- though meetings will no doubt stretch into the night.