The COP17/CMP7 summit in Durban which concluded on 11 December reached decisions that can move us towards a legally binding agreement to halt and reverse the path we are currently taking towards catastrophic climate change, but the hopes for a substantial deal on emissions reductions have not been realised. The international community must find an accord with the ambition to limit the global temperature rise to a maximum of 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which remains the only possible solution to the dangers faced by the world.
In establishing the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, the conference rightly concluded that any future agreement on climate change must be legally binding, referred to officially as "an agreed outcome with legal force". It is now more vital than ever that negotiations continue without delay and in a spirit of compromise and understanding in order to make these goals a reality, as the cost of postponing such an agreement grows with every passing year.
With Durban, the framework is also now in place for the operation of the Green Climate Fund with the approval of its Governing Instrument, although long-term sources of financing for the Fund have yet to be finalised. The decision launching the Fund addresses the need to balance the allocation of resources between adaptation and mitigation activities, which is in line with the Socialist International’s call in Johannesburg at the end of October this year.
A positive step is also the commitment that a mechanism for technology transfer will be fully operational by 2012 to "promote and enhance the research, development, and deployment and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries".
We congratulate the South African hosts for showing the leadership and perseverance to obtain these and other agreements, but we are under no illusions that there is much hard work ahead of us all.
It must be acknowledged at the same time that some of the commitments we were hoping to see in Durban on deepening and formalising pledged cuts in emissions, as outlined in the declaration of the Socialist International
made in Johannesburg, have not been achieved. Equally, much progress needs to be made on policies for the protection of forests, developing renewable technologies and establishing systems for measurement, reporting and verification, and the decisions reached lack the necessary urgency to effectively address the case of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The international community must persevere within the framework of the UNFCCC to come together in a common search for solutions to the greatest threat that currently faces the planet. Multilateralism continues to be the only way forward, with the vast majority of the nations on the planet wishing to see political will match the scientific requirements and no longer willing to accept ‘pledge and review’, with the direct involvement of political leaders in the process crucial to deliver the responses needed.
The Socialist International will continue to place the issue of climate change at the heart of its agenda, starting with the forthcoming Council meeting to take place in San José, Costa Rica in January 2012 and continuing with the work and activities of its Commission for a Sustainable World Society as we head towards Rio+20, COP18 and beyond.