14 Dec 2011

Durban Platform the future path for reducing global carbon emissions

The Kyoto Protocol has received a last minute reprieve but is likely to be mostly superseded by the Durban Platform, the key outcome of COP17. According to the COP17 draft decision a new group, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, will develop by 2015 a new protocol or other legally binding outcome for emissions reduction, to come into effect and be implemented from 2020.

The key differences between Kyoto and Durban are:

  • there will now be a common legal framework for developed and developing countries;
  • the US, China and India are on board; and
  • Kyoto included legally binding commitments – Durban only has an agreement to agree on such commitments.

Starting in the first half of 2012, the Durban Platform Working Group will plan its work on matters such as mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, transparency of action, and support and capacity-building.

The preparedness of the EU, among others, to take on a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol commencing from 2013 potentially provides life support to the only international legal framework to achieve emission reductions. A second commitment period appeared critical in getting agreement from China and India to the Durban Platform. Nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol is likely to provide ongoing architectural support for the agreement contemplated under the Durban Platform, since its rules will continue to provide support for market mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism.

What the second commitment period looks like for Australia remains to be seen – Australia only indicated that it was "prepared to consider" a further commitment but it is expected that it will be consistent with Australia's unilateral 5% reduction target on 2000 levels while the Durban Platform is still being negotiated.

Australia also used the opportunity of the Durban Conference to get agreement from the European Union and New Zealand to examine opportunities to link Australia's carbon price mechanism with their emissions trading schemes.

Other outcomes included agreement on:

  • improved transparency and better monitoring, reporting and verification of countries' emissions reduction actions;
  • a new Green Climate Fund to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change;
  • progressing the REDD+ mechanism;
  • new market mechanisms to drive opportunities for low cost greenhouse gas abatement;
  • an Adaptation Committee to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change; and
  • rules for a new technology mechanism to speed up transfer of low pollution technologies to developing countries.

The next key date is 28 February 2012, when parties must submit their views on raising what the conference called the "level of ambition" to achieve significant mitigation, so that a workplan can be launched.


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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.