Wednesday, July 23, 2014

At U.N. Climate Summit, Countries Set Goal For New Climate Deal in Effect Around 2020

By Eric J. Lyman

DURBAN, South Africa—While negotiators at the U.N. climate summit agreed to a pact that will obligate the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters to take steps to reduce their emissions starting as soon as 2020, the deferral of many important decisions to 2012 or beyond makes it difficult to gauge the value of the accord.

The agreement was reached Dec. 11 after talks were extended 30 hours beyond the scheduled close of the meeting.

Negotiators also agreed to establish a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, minus several important emitting countries. The second commitment period would last either five or eight years after it goes into effect, probably in 2013.

Initial details also were hammered out for the Green Climate Fund, which aims to provide developing countries with at least $100 billion a year for adaptation efforts starting in 2020.

Almost all of the terms of the Cancun Agreements, the package of measures agreed to at the 2010 U.N. climate summit in Mexico, also were implemented. These include a “technology transfer center” to be established in a yet-to-be determined location. It will deal with issues surrounding the sharing of new, environmentally friendly technologies with developing countries, including intellectual property protection, training, and sustainability.

Longest-Lasting Summit

The Durban talks, officially the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, lasted far longer than any of its predecessors, stretching into a second day after its scheduled Dec. 9 conclusion.

Almost every hour of the extra period was spent in negotiations before a deal was brokered by an unlikely partnership that included the European Union; most members of the Alliance of Small Island States and the group of Least Developed Countries; and two large developing countries, Brazil and conference host South Africa.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, president of the COP, hailed the agreement as a “historic achievement,” while UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said delegates took “crucial steps forward.”

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