Durban’s Green Climate Fund

“Finding a workable way forward is the defining issue at Durban,” said Ms Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as the UNFCCC.

For two weeks in Durban, 195 Parties to the Convention adopted in Rio de Janeiro at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development  in 1992 (the “Rio Earth Summit”) met to discuss the immediate future of the Kyoto Protocol, further commitments of developed countries and evolution of a broader mitigation framework. They also met to hash out details for long term funding arrangements beyond 2012.

At Durban, the most likely success will be progress on the Green Climate Fund. The Fund, agreed upon in Cancun last year, is meant to provide adequate, long-term financing for developing countries, and will be in addition to existing financial mechanisms such as the Global Environment Facility, Fast-Start Finance, Adaptation Fund and other special funds.

The Report of the Transitional Committee for the design of the Green Climate Fund was released just ten days before the Durban talks. This report has been the centre of debate at the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) meetings chaired by the COP President, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Negotiators are eager to firm up the Green Climate Fund’s details, so as to ensure that a decision can be made in Durban. The goal is to provide adequate, predictable, continuous, long-term funding to developing countries, reaching US$100 billion per year by 2020. However, there are many outstanding issues to be discussed in the final week of negotiations, such as initial capitalization of the fund, sources of funding, a legal framework and access to the fund, guidance under the COP and the selection of the 24 board members, one trustee and host country.

The Report of the Transitional Committee is seen by the Parties to the Convention as a “compromise”, striking a good balance among many views. Though some negotiators have indicated that they are willing to take the report “as is”, most are of the view that more details need to be provided before the fund can be fully operational. However, this is unlikely to be a deal breaker.

The Green Climate Fund will be the first multilateral financial instrument to be negotiated in an open, transparent and inclusive manner. The Transitional Committee meetings, which took place over the course of 2011 in Mexico City, Tokyo, Geneva and Cape Town, were open to observers.

Singapore’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, is a member of the Transitional Committee for the design of the Green Climate Fund and presented statements on behalf of Singapore at the COP17 Plenary sessions pertaining to the Fund. He highlighted that it was important to build consensus and move forward in an open, transparent and inclusive manner.

To be successful, it is imperative for the meetings in Durban to address further commitments of developed countries and the evolution of the broader mitigation framework under the convention, while ensuring the differentiated participation of developing countries. Environmental integrity must also be addressed within all the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol. To do this, transparent, open, comprehensive and global institutional support is required. The immediate future of the Kyoto Protocol and a longer path to a broader binding climate regime needs to be in sight.

As this climate meeting marathon enters its final phase, it is important to see that failure to overcome a deadlock will put the world in peril. However, some parties, including the United States, are still not ready and are unlikely to accept commitments in the foreseeable future.  Many are looking to the world’s four emerging giants – Brazil, South Africa, India and China, also known as the BASIC countries – to show leadership towards a second commitment period. For now, we can only eagerly watch and wait for the “Durban Package” to be revealed on Friday.

Melissa Low is an Energy Analyst at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore.

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