Climate change: Talking about talks

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, refers to 2009 as ‘the year of climate change”.

Around the world, poor nations have been badly hit by climate change, including long droughts, hot weather and strong storms. The International Panel on Climate Change says climate change is happening faster than previously thought. At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks held in Bonn, Germany, delegates from 192 parties are ironing out a shared vision for amendments to the Kyoto Protocol.

These draft discussions are not just about setting new emissions targets for industrialised countries after 2012.
They also focus on how to achieve greater action on climate-change mitigation and adaptation strategies to help developing countries grow their economies. On April 24, parties will make their final submissions toward the text to be used as the basis for discussions at a meeting in Copenhagen in December. The text is expected to be tabled in June when parties meet for another round of talks. ‘We are about to move into real negotiating mode,” said De Boer, who believes Copenhagen may be ‘one of the most complex international treaties ever negotiated”.

The most high-profile issue to come out of Bonn has been the United States’s return to climate change negotiations. Developing countries expect the US to make ‘comparable commitments” regarding climate change mitigation but the country is entwined in what Alf Wills, leader of the South African delegation, refers to as a ‘political web” with China. Neither country will commit until the other ‘goes first”.

For the G77 developing countries and China, the focus during these negotiations has been on ensuring both economic growth and poverty eradication. South Africa has been a vocal advocate for developing countries at the talks, coordinating the Africa group and negotiating in alliance with the developing country bloc, which includes Africa, Asia and Grulac, the group of Latin American and Caribbean states.

‘Holding this alliance together is very difficult but very important,” says Judy Beaumont, a member of the South African delegation, who points out that the strength of the African region is an important issue within the developing country bloc.

If developing countries get what they want from Copenhagen, the post-2012 world could be very different to the one we have today, with industrialised countries required to cut emissions by 80% to 95% from 1990 levels by 2050, facilitate the transmission of technology to developing countries to aid green development, and help provide finance for sustainable development in the developing world.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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