After Durban, the hard work begins

Monday, December 12, 2011

durban-final-press-release
Agnes Mhona, 27, digs out a reservoir for an irrigation system in Chisatha, a village in southern Malawi on its border with Mozambique. This village has been hard hit by drought in recent years, leading to chronic food insecurity, especially during the "hunger season," when farmers are waiting for the harvest. Photo: ACT Alliance/Paul Jeffrey

ACT Alliance welcomes the hard-fought political victory championed by the EU, small island states and the least developed countries in the waning hours of the UN climate conference in Durban, where governments of the world’s largest polluters finally agreed to the principle of a global plan to tackle climate change.

The agreement proves largely disappointing, however, for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Indeed, the global plan will not take effect until 2020 – a date that will be too late for many. The world’s poor are already hit by floods, droughts, deadly storms, hunger and disease – which will only worsen as a result of climate change. The deal leaves open the prospect that the world’s temperature will rise by 3 or 4 degrees, which is significantly higher than the 2 degrees deemed manageable by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Secretary General of ACT Alliance, John Nduna, said that while governments are relieved the climate summit in Durban delivered at least some sort of agreement, “the poor and vulnerable will weep at its content. The agreement is too careful and vague to stave off the worst impacts of climate change in time.”

While the Durban outcome left much to be desired, the clear success of this COP has been to mobilise the Green Climate Fund, a new tool to channel climate finance to developing countries. Nduna explained that the Fund “is of huge importance for the adaptation, disaster risk reduction and support work needed at the grassroots level.”

However, a fund without money will not be able to deliver. Governments must urgently agree on how to mobilise the necessary funds.

COP17 also agreed on a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, but the new deal severely watered down the only existing international legal agreement on climate change, paving the way for a number of countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions targets to arbitrary quantities based on political expediency rather than scientific necessity.

Nduna explains, “We did not want the Kyoto Protocol for its name, but its content – and we therefore regret this development. We are concerned that the basic spirit of the Kyoto Protocol is fading.”

The outcome in Durban places a huge burden on emergency response networks such as ACT Alliance in its support of vulnerable communities in their adaptation and mitigation efforts – as climate-induced emergencies increase in number and intensity. As such, ACT Alliance and similar coalitions must also pressure governments to live up to their promises made in Durban.

Looking forward, Nduna concludes, “the world will need to work hard in the next months and years to concretise the loose agreement made in Durban.”