The Durban Climate Summit

Salome Phelamei

As the world waits to see for a consensus at this year’s climate conference, thousands of experts, government negotiators, campaigners, and businessmen will gather in the sunny city of Durban in South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December for the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The summit is officially referred to as the 17th session of the 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 negotiations will aim to move ahead, in a balanced fashion, the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action Plan, agreed at COP 13 in 2007, and the Cancun Agreements, reached at COP 16 last December.

However, the ultimate goal of the Convention is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will thwart dangerous human interference with the climate system.

Who can partake in COP17/CMP7?

Membership at COP 17 and CMP 7 is limited to appropriately nominated representatives of Parties, observer States, accredited observer organizations and the accredited media.

However, those Parties to the Convention that are not Parties to the Protocol may attend as observers in the Meeting of the Parties.

Over 24,000 delegates, including some 10,590 government officials, more than 13,000 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and 3,221 accredited media members attended the COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009, while COP 16 / CMP 6 in Cancun last year had over 11,800 participants. For this year, around 25,000 people are expected to visit Durban during the UN climate conference.

Key issues

Kyoto and emission reduction targets-

The summit would stress on the future of Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of next year. There are already sceptics over the fate of COP 17 with the top emitting countries such as the US, Russia and China refusing to commit themselves to modest reductions of various forms of greenhouse gases.

Green Climate Fund-

Even if the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders to collaborate in financing the UN multibillion-dollar fund to combat global warming, there are already qualms on the financial commitment in view of the current global economic crisis. Plans to establish the USD 100 billion Green Climate Fund, dedicated to taming the ‘damaging’ effects of climate change in developing countries, has hit a big hurdle after the US and Saudi Arabia failed to support it.

Trader barriers and climate change-

Advocated by India, a number of countries have proposed a complete ban on ‘unilateral trade measures’ on grounds related to climate change. India proposed that such measures would have the ultimate effect of pushing the burden of climate change policies on to developing nations.

Eurozone crisis-

While money is expected to be a bone of contention between developing and developed countries at the Durban climate summit, experts are concerned that Eurozone crisis may restrain the billions of dollars of funding from industrialised countries to their poorer counterparts to adapt to climate change. With financial crisis deepening in Europe and the US economy also going through a bad phase, the money pledged by developed countries is unlikely to be seen.


Although, uncertainty prevails over the fate of Kyoto, analysts hope the talks to produce a face-saving measure to prevent the climate deal from dying in Durban. The world is more concerned about the current global economic woes and escalating debt crisis than about what increased climate change impact will do to our planet. We should note that impediments in agreeing upon the new climate deal will make the world miss a chance to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

And the huge difference in view between developing and developed countries still splits world making it unfeasible to achieve a global treaty.

The least developed countries and countries that are vulnerable to climate change, on the other hand are strongly advocating for strong action to curb emissions, and bring an end to the negotiation impasse around the extension of Kyoto and emissions reduction targets. Various civil society organizations are also pressuring developed and industrialized nations to form an early accord, and commitment for deal on emission reduction targets.

With expectations of success already low for the talks, it is being speculated that the summit is unlikely to meet its ultimate goal.

Meanwhile, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat and organizers for the summit are hoping for some kind of miracle to happen among the parties in agreeing to forge a consensus of a single, legally binding, global climate agreement.

At present, China and United States are world`s largest greenhouse gas emitters. Greenhouse gases emissions are also seriously mounting in India. India is currently world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

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