Durban deal breathes life into climate talks

21 February 2012 | Article

In December, governments at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa agreed measures to sustain current global efforts to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and to conclude a new global agreement with legal force to help avert the threat of climate change.

In addition, the agreement on a Green Climate Fund and initial financial pledges offer hope that sufficient finance will flow to deal with climate change impacts.

“We had anticipated that Durban would be where the developed world would raise the bar on their current ambitions and all countries would purposefully commit to the development of a credible roadmap for deep and wide ranging targets for the comprehensive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” says Stewart Maginnis, IUCN’s Director of Environment and Development. “This has been achieved, and steps have been laid out for a new agreement to be put in place by 2015. A new spirit of compromise spanning the developed and developing countries is an encouraging step forward.”

The Durban Package signals recognition that the world's governments will purposely and comprehensively address the causes of climate change. The final agreement that will involve all countries will have to ensure that climate change mitigation measures are sufficient to meet the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2°C.

The package also makes it clear that national governments will step up their own efforts both to reduce emissions and to adapt to climate change, and to apply “no regrets” solutions while the final architecture of the agreements are hammered out.

This comes at a crucial time, as climate change is not going to wait for the negotiations on this new deal to be finalized. The impacts on ecosystems and peoples’ lives will continue to become more and more evident and resolving these will come at an ever-increasing cost in years to come.

There is growing bottom-up demand to manage natural systems better to buy the world’s vulnerable communities some much needed breathing space in mitigating and adapting to climate change. In this respect it is imperative that national governments continue to take early, no regrets actions, as seen in countries like Rwanda, which earlier this year committed to a comprehensive border-to-border restoration of its degraded soils, wetlands and forests.

IUCN applauds the momentum that has resulted in a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol and strongly urges Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to move swiftly towards putting in place a new global agreement that has legal force, aiming to stabilize the world’s climate. Investments in the Green Climate Fund should provide the necessary resources for countries to move ahead with their own efforts. Among these there should be an increased emphasis on building on what already works: the power of intact natural ecosystems.