What could COP 17 in Durban achieve?

As delegates start negotiations in Durban, the major issues of the Kyoto Protocol and a “Roadmap to 2020” are dominating the news wires. The big picture story is very important, but in the meantime nations need to use this meeting to make real progress in a number of smaller but important areas. Despite the rhetoric, an alternative global framework is slowly emerging from the process, albeit one that won’t immediately deliver the sharp reductions that we know are needed, but nevertheless one that has the prospect of engaging the business community and catalyzing significant project activity in many countries. In particular, the developing country emission reduction pledges which emerged from Copenhagen and Cancun in response to the agreed 2°C global ambition are being progressively distilled into a series of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), or bottom-up national/sector policies and commitments.

There still remain very substantial gaps to fill. Recently, through its Vision 2050 project, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) called again for the development of “a carbon price and a network of linked emissions trading frameworks . . . “ in combination with technology development policies as the principal systematic and lowest cost approaches to reducing emissions. Although such a comprehensive approach remains distant, the issues of technology and financing are being dealt with to some extent through the development of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism and the Green Climate Fund. These mechanisms, in combination with the development of NAMA programmes in key countries can make a real difference, but a number of essential steps should be taken in Durban to fully activate this process;

  1.  Full business involvement is critical to getting the large scale investment needed. As business we need to better understand and even contribute to the development of proposals through an open consultation process and stakeholder meetings. Then, as countries begin defining and implementing NAMAs, partnerships with business should be established through which proposals can be developed and therefore attract the necessary investment.
  2. The Green Climate Fund needs to begin operating, with a particular focus on large scale emission reduction opportunities in power generation and transport in emerging economies. It’s also important that the fund is available to a broad range of emission reduction technologies.
  3. Delegates must recognize the long term importance of a carbon market and therefore ensure that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the one existing mechanism able to project a carbon price into the entire developing world, has a clear way forward independent of a global agreement on targets. The opportunity to confirm the acceptability of Carbon Capture and Storage projects under this mechanism should not be lost.
  4. Finally, the COP should seek to establish a means by which the Technology Mechanism can support and fund the creation of local and regional technology platforms tied to NAMA delivery.

These are modest steps, somewhat esoteric in nature for the layman, but essential for real progress. We recognize that the meeting in Durban can only deliver so much, but the above is not outside the grasp of a single meeting.  A recent Shell document that I have worked on gives more detail on what is needed from Durban.

To download the document, click here -> Structural Approaches (Durban).