The latest saga of the Kyoto Protocol has been played out in Durban with the announcement of the first global agreement, in principle, for climate change emissions reductions by 194 countries.
Whilst this agreement is, a stepping stone (it is an agreement to subsequently agree “a legally binding” agreement), it has committed all countries, developed and developing alike, have agreed a road map to a binding agreement on how to tackle the emission of greenhouse gases (“GHGs”).
The key issues and the implications are as follows:
- A Global agreement on a roadmap to achieve a legally binding deal on GHG reductions.
- The extended duration of the Kyoto Protocol to be concluded next year
- The Green Climate Fund
The most important aspect of the agreement is that a global process has been agreed to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” under the UNFCC applicable to all parties. A body known as the “Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” will be formed starting in the first half of 2012 and for completion of its tasks by no later than 2015 in order for the protocol, legal instrument or legal outcome to come into legal effect and be implemented from 2020. The Kyoto Protocol is extended until at least the end of 2017 and, potentially, until 2020 when the global agreement proposed above is due to enter force. Additionally, the commitment to establishing the Green Climate Fund is a very significant step.
Whilst the conference result has been hard-won and is recognised as the best possible outcome given the need to balance global and national interests, the agreement has been criticised for its limitations. Notably, the lack of specific requirements of what is to be agreed by 2015 will, inevitably, introduce considerable uncertainty.
For now, we should all recognise the importance of the result that, for the first time a number of nations will contribute to a global reduction of GHG emissions through legally binding targets on GHG from 2020 is a step in the right direction. Let us all, hope that its is not too little, too late.