Durban climate change talks – the final day

English: Presidents of South Africa Jacob Zuma...
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South African president Jacob Zuma officially opens the United Nations COP17 climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, Photograph: Elmond Jiyane /EPA

John Vidal

John Vidal has more on Tosi Mpanu Mpanu’s statement to the Guardian yesterday that “chequebook diplomacy” had started with African countries being offered bilateral deals:

When I saw Chris Huhne last night he denied that money pledged by rich countries for developing nations to adapt to climate change were bribes, and he was proud that Britain would be the first country in the world to meet its target of giving 0.7% of GDP for development aid.

But NGO the World Development Movement is not too sure. Policy officer Murray Worthy said, “It is outrageous that rich countries are now resorting to bribery to try to force Africa to accept a bad deal here in Durban. These are exactly the same strong-arm tactics the US and EU used to try to force developing countries to accept a bad deal in Copenhagen.”

More from Fiona:

UK energy and climate change minister Chris Huhne is in a cafe deep in conversation with his negotiators and advisors – and with Michael Jacobs, the former Downing Street special advisor who was Gordon Brown’s right hand man at the Copenhagen climate talks.

Subject of discussion – how to avoid a Copenhagen style meltdown, perhaps?

Word from Fiona Harvey on financing:

Fiona Harvey

Finding the money from rich countries and the private sector to be invested in helping poor countries cut their emissions, move to a green economy and cope with the effects of climate change – is a huge issue at these talks, but has been eclipsed by the prospect of a new phase of negotiations.

Lord Stern reminded delegates of its importance, in a report previewed by the Guardian earlier this week:

“Rich countries can and should fulfil their commitment, despite the current economic crisis, to provide US$100 billion a year by the end of the decade to support action against climate change in developing countries, according to a new report published on Friday by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.”

More from John Vidal on India’s position:

India is now clearly got its gander up. Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan is keeping up her assault on the EU, laying down the red-lines and demanding that Europe clarifies its position. On this may hang the whole deal.

COP 17 in Durban : BASIC countries : Jayanthi Natarajan(From L to R) : Brazil’s climate negotiator Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, India Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan and China’s climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua Photograph: Jenny Bates for The Guardian

“We had a meeting today of BASIC countries [Brazil, South Africa, India and China], and we are together. I have repeatedly said that I have come with an open mind and we would want to know the content of the binding agreement and in exchange if they are ready to give us a ratifiable KP [Kyoto Protocol] and how other issues of equity, CBDR [Common but Differentiated Responsibilities], IPR [Intellectual Property Rights], trade figure.

Even today BASIC are on all the same stand. Our demand has been extremely reasonable and we want to wait for result of 5th review of IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. I have a feeling that earlier they wanted to bury Bali Action Plan but now I think they want to bury Cancún agreement also. We want answer to our questions before we agree to anything,” she says.

Pollution in India's greenhouse gas emissions: thermal power plant on the outskirts of Nagpur, IndiaA thermal power plant on the outskirts of Nagpur. Photograph: Arko Datta/Reuters

Many in the NGO community at the talks believe that the diplomatic pressure being put on large developing countries to accept a deal that would commit them to legally binding CO2 cuts is wrong. They argue that it is the countries that have created the problem with their historical emission that should shoulder most of the burden for sorting it out.

Sunita Narain argues in a blog for the Guardian that large developing nations are already doing more than their fair share:

…many countries, including India, see this EU move as a ploy to remove the differentiation between the contributors to the problem of climate change and the rest. (This distinction formed the basis of the climate convention and set the principle that countries responsible for the bulk of emissions had to take action first, make deep emission cuts to create space for the rest to grow.) They see surreptitious moves to rewrite this agreement. So, distrust has grown deeper, even as we know that the agreement to cut emissions cannot work without global cooperation.

This is not to say China, Brazil and South Africa, or even India, should not take action to combat climate change. When negotiations began over 20 years ago, it was well understood the industrialised world – contributor to 70-80% of the stock of emissions in the atmosphere – had to vacate space for the emerging world to grow. The deal was this enriched world would reduce emissions drastically, for they had thrown the climate system out of kilter. The deal also was that money and technology transfer would enable emerging countries to avoid future emissions growth. But none of this happened. Meagre targets were set; the US and other big polluters walked out of the agreement. The funds never came.

John Vidal

India is making allegations of dirty tactics. John Vidal reports:

The Indian environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan is clearly angry at how India is being treated by the EU, and has just put out a statement:
“I participated in the ministerial meetings [last night ]and suggested how to move ahead at Durban. Much after I had reached my hotel, to my surprise, I was informed that on the recommendations of certain parties like the EU, a meeting was again called by the chair. My senior negotiators participated on the country’s behalf along the brief I had given them earlier and raised specific issues in the late night discussions.”

India appears to be implying that it was deliberately not told in advance about the meeting and was therefore put at at a significant diplomatic disadvantage. This is a tactic that Bolivia and others accused Europe of using last year in Cancún, and in Copenhagen 2009.

News from the UK delegation from John Vidal:

We are told energy secretary Chris Huhne is too rushed to answer more than one question from the British press. Our meeting is switched from the British delegation’s underground car park bunker to another room, and then another. Here’s all that he would say to the obvious question, “Mr Huhne, what is happening?”:

Chris HuhneChris Huhne: Dominic Lipinski/PA

“I think we’re at the point when a number of developing countries must decide if they want a treaty with environmental integrity. It is clear that the EU is speaking for the vast majority of parties in the Cop, and we have some fundamental political changes. There is a very visible high ambition coalition that stretches across the developed world in Europe and developing countries, and the real issue is whether those who until now have been reluctant to join the high ambition coalition are actually prepared to do so.”

“There have been some hints of movement before the conference and here. The key thing now is to look in detail at what people are prepared to do on the page. We have just had a co-ordination meeting. The EU is united, and standing firm.”

Climate people : Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's Minister for Climate and EnergyConnie Hedegaard, EU environment commissioner Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP

Connie Hedegaard, the EU environment commissioner has tweeted:

LDCs, AOSIS and the EU united in the desire for an ambitious outcome in Durban.

Here’s the statement:

The least developed countries, the Alliance of Small Island States and the European Union are united in their desire for an ambitious outcome in Durban.

We believe that the world has had a lot of time to think. What we need is not more thinking. What we need is more action.

The gap between our ambitions and the current pledges is simply too wide. And we need not to remind anyone of the scale of climatic threats facing the most vulnerable countries in the world as a result of climate change. The facts are clear and we are still too far from where we need to be to secure the most vulnerable countries’ right to sustainable development.

The chance to reach our objective is getting smaller as time passes and we need to start this process today. For many countries, this is a matter of survival and this process should be able to deliver an answer to meet their worries.

We need to deliver in Durban. We are ready to operationalize the Green Fund and the other Cancun institutions; to deliver what we have already agreed in Cancun. But higher ambitions on mitigation action are crucial. What we need is to effectively stop climate change. And that can only happen if all parties to the UNFCCC process will be committed to concrete efforts.

Hence, we need firm and clear decisions mapping out next steps that deliver the ambition we need. This includes agreeing an amendment of the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period together with a robust mandate and roadmap for a legally binding instrument. Under this instrument, all parties to the UNFCCC need to commit, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.

The price of buying time is rising. Durban must deliver. The EU, LDCs and AOSIS are ready to undertake concrete obligations to manage the climate change challenge. We urge others to join.

Overnight, the US state department in Washington issued a statement clarifying its position on the EU’s “roadmap” proposals. Emily Cain, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State:

Todd Stern said in his press conference [thursday] that the United States could support a process to negotiate a new climate accord. He did not say that the United States supports a legally binding agreement as the result of that process. The EU has supported both a process and the result being a legally binding agreement.

Here’s what Todd Stern said in his press conference yesterday.

Fiona Harvey

From our correspondent Fiona Harvey:

Nick Stern, the former World Bank chief economist and author of the landmark 2006 review of the economics of climate change for the UK treasury, just told me his advice to the EU negotiators hoping to sway India behind a deal: “Talk sensibly and quietly to India – they are a very important country.” Lord Stern has spent many years working in and with India.

Earth's climate system : View of Earth's weather from MODISView of earth’s weather on July 11, 2005. Photograph: MODIS/Terra/NASA

Our interactive graphic pulls together a huge amount of data on current and historical carbon emissions. China is the world’s biggest emitter at 6.83bn tonnes per year, followed by the US at 5.2bn tonnes.

In per capita terms China is still some way behind the US (with 5.14 tonnes per person compared with the US’s 16.9 tonnes). However, China is fast approaching the European average. The UK’s carbon emissions per person are 7.54 tonnes for example.

Historically, the position is very different. Per person, China has emitted 80.4 tonnes CO2 compared with 1127.2 tonnes per person for the UK and 1125.7 for the US.

Here’s a quick catch up on where the negotiations stand.

120 countries, including Brazil, Japan, Canada and many African nations, have lined up behind the EU’s proposal for a roadmap towards a new global agreement. The plan would involve the major emitters from both the developing and developed world to sign a deal in 2015 which would come into effect in 2020.

There was some confusion on Thursday when the US lead negotiator Todd Stern appeared to endorse the EU’s position (he used the term “roadmap” approvingly twice in a press conference). He later rowed backfrom that though and seems to favour a more flexible time-table.

Meanwhile, India has been strongly opposed to any plan that would mean it and other large developing economies should take on legally-binding cuts to carbon emissions. China’s position is ambiguous. It has made some warm noises about the EU plan but appears also to be some way from accepting legally binding cuts.

Negotiations went on late into the night yesterday at the UN climate talks in Durban. The countries are still a long way from any kind of deal (they don’t even have a specific text to wrangle over yet) but last night there was hope that an agreement could be reached. A tentative coalition was forming behind the EU’s proposal of a “roadmap” to a global, legally binding deal to be signed in 2015 and come into force in by 2020.

Much is at stake. After the excitement, expectation and ultimatedisappointment and farce of the Copenhagen summit in December 2009, the credibility of the entire UN process has been under great scrutiny. The 2010 conference in Cancún restored some faith, but as things stand there is still no legally binding international framework for cuts in carbon emissions beyond 2012. That is the point at which the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end. The future of the Kyoto Protocol has been a major sticking point for years – and at these talks.

So what can we expect today? If previous “Conferences of the Parties” are anything to go by, we are in for several hours of increasingly intense behind the scenes negotiations. John Vidal and Fiona Harvey, are in Durban and will be attempting to find out what is really going on. If there is to be a deal, the talks may well spill over into Saturday – and there are even rumours that delegates are preparing for the talking to continue into Sunday.

We will have live updates here throughout the day. You can send me a message on twitter at @james_randerson.

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