Careful deliberations in the final hours of COP17
Thursday, December 08, 2011
COP17 negotiations have become intense. A visibly exhausted chair Maite Nkoana-Mashabane this morning warned negotiators they were down to their last 36 hours. The pace of negotiations has picked up with delegates toiling day and night over detail of text. Ministers run between consultations, informal meetings and, in some cases, secret meetings. We lobbyists do what we can to follow developments, then do our best to get the ear of the right person at the right time.
Unfortunately a large part of the talk around the conference is about the long term. Should a climate agreement begin in 2015? Or 2017? And should it even be implemented way off in 2020? Any talk about the distant future is dangerous. This very minute people are starving in the Horn of Africa. Others are tying to rebuild their houses after floods in Pakistan.
El Salvador environment minister Herman Rosa Chávez spoke with frustration about the increasing number of hurricanes that have slammed his country in recent decades. In the 1970s, El Salvador was struck by just one big hurricane. In the 1990s, it was four. Since 2000, a total of nine big hurricanes have laid waste his country. Natural disasters not only destroy the physical environment, they also affect a country's economy, its GDP, as well as food prices. El Salvador is now forced to buy kidney beans from China as it can no longer produce enough of this traditional staple.
While developing and low lying countries are are expounding the gravity of the situation, all COP17 negotiators know the long term perspective is also important. Otherwise it wouldn't be possible to get big carbon producers like the United States to sign an agreement. But Durban should not end without agreement. Developing countries need to hear commitment to strong action in the short term, as well as measures further down the track. When the delegates leave Durban on Saturday they should go with concrete plans of action in their bags. The work doesn't end here, it begins.