Under the mango tree – Durban climate talks branch out but still bear no fruit

If the so-called Indaba text is the mango tree to provide an abundance of fleshy, ripe fruits, then it has still a long way to branch out at the UN climate talks in Durban.

Reaction to the South African Presidency’s Bigger Picture text was mixed. While a Japanese delegate member said the bigger picture might require ‘higher definition,’ Democratic Republic of Congo negotiator Tosi Mpanu Mpanu called the text a ‘small improvement,’ he stated that it required clarity in order to provide greater ambition under the Kyoto Protocol and not put further pressure on least developed countries to undertake any mitigating action.

Mpanu Mpanu eloquently said that to have any mangoes required the Indaba text to provide the mango tree.

The Indonesian delegation described the text as ‘so-so, but we hope for better.’

Indeed the ability of the Indaba text to cross-fertilize many issues without alienating anyone party is critical to the success of the 17th UN climate conference, known as COP 17. The revised text has now included the Kyoto Protocol but at the expense of the 2007 Bali Action Plan while deferring any commitment to steeper mitigation targets.

Paragraph 3 of the new Indaba text included greater reference to agreements both at Copenhagen and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Action previously established under the Bali Action Plan, the latter would be phased-out at the end of next year’s COP 18 to be held in Qatar.

The text now includes Kyoto members in the development of a Protocol or ‘’another legal instrument’’ that would be applicable to ‘’all Parties under the UN Framework Convention.’’

However, this would make no distinction between developed and developing countries and obligations under the concept of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities or historic responsibilities, Friends of the Earth Policy Analyst Kate Horner told Platts.

A member of the Mexican delegation countered this argument to say that the text did not need to include all references while Brazil’s chief negotiator Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo praised the progress over the first Indaba text for being more ambitious, its references to Kyoto. ‘In principle, it seems to be what we want,’ he told New Orator.

However, of general concern is the lack of ambition on mitigation action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that could now be deferred until after 2014 as the text calls for all commitments to be informed by the forthcoming 2014 IPCC 5th Assessment Report, as well as the 2013-2015 review of the subsidiary bodies.

While the Indaba text has branched out to touch more issues and appeal to more parties’ positions, its success will inform the 132-page Long-Term Co-operative Action which in turn informs the Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol and subsequently trickle down to Kyoto issues such as Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).

Yet while the text may have branched out, the world waits to see any action on climate change through any open and televised plenaries where the nation’s big emitters justify their positions to the world, rather than through a system of closed meetings.

If Durban produces any mangoes, they may be the firm, unripe variety that leaves the world in a climate pickle. That outcome will likely be discovered late into the night.