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Durban will help fix balance in climate fight: UN official
by Staff Writers
Durban, South Africa (AFP) Dec 4, 2011

A dozen heads of state to attend UN climate talks
Durban, South Africa (AFP) Dec 2, 2011 - Twelve heads of government and state have said they will participate in UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said on Friday.

About 130 ministers will also descend on the coastal city for negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), she said at a press conference.

African leaders from the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Senegal are set to attend the 12-day talks which wrap up on December 9, Figueres said.

Nauru, Honduras, Samoa, Monaco, Fiji, Niue and Norway will also be represented by their heads of state.

Ministers are set to arrive on Monday and Tuesday in time to attend the high-level session starting on Tuesday afternoon. All but three countries in the 194-nation body have sent representatives.

A preliminary draft of what could be a "Durban Accord" will circulate over the weekend so negotiators can continue the hunt for an elusive middle ground in the troubled talks.

The key issues on the table are the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only international treaty limiting greenhouse gases, and whether nations should lay down an objective of crafting a comprehensive climate deal before the end of the decade.

Activating a "green climate fund" that would, by 2020, disburse 100 billion dollars a year to poorer countries is also under discussion.

Climate talks in Durban are on track to help poor and vulnerable nations deal with increasingly fierce heatwaves, storms and drought, the UN's top climate official said Saturday.

"I am pretty confident that we are going to come out of Durban at the end of next week with probably the strongest package to support adaptation that we have ever had," Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told AFP in an interview.

Climate change initiatives fall into two broad categories of "cut" and "cope": cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming, and coping with the impacts already hitting regions across the world.

How to allocate scarce climate resources across this divide is a keenly debated issue at the 12-day climate negotiations under the UNFCCC, which runs through Friday.

Most developing countries would like to see more money going into projects that help small-scale farmers cope with climate-enhanced weather extremes, or coastal communities deal with amped up storm surges and rising seas.

So far, however, the lion's share of funds have gone to mitigation, the term used for schemes to reduce the amount of CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

Some 95 percent of the approximately 97 billion dollars channeled into climate-related finance each year is earmarked for mitigation, according to a report by Climate Policy Initiative, an international research centre based in San Francisco.

"The split between mitigation and adaptation contrasts with some of the rhetoric in global climate change negotiations, where many countries and commentators have remarked that climate finance should be split 50-50," lead author Barbara Buchner notes in the study.

New initiatives on the table in Durban should help shift the balance in this direction, Figueres said.

Some are only preliminary steps, such as forming a work group to examine "loss and damage" that can be attributed to climate change, or a program that allows the most exposed nations to highlight priority targets for assistance.

All of these are to be piloted by an umbrella adaptation committee that exists on paper but has yet to be set up.

More contentious is a Green Climate Fund, to be ramped up to 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to help with both mitigation and adaptation in poorer nations. Again, the mix has yet to be defined.

For Figueres, the yardstick for progress in the UN talks as a whole is how well they serve this constituency.

"I firmly believe that the success of this process must be measured by its effect on the most vulnerable populations of the world, not those that are least vulnerable," she said.

Earlier in the day, some 6,500 people, mostly from South Africa and other parts of the continent, marched through the streets of Durban calling for "climate justice".

Many were highly critical of the UN talks, saying they were moving too slowly and slanted too heavily toward market-driven initiatives based on carbon markets.

When asked, Figueres acknowledged that she felt sympathy with the marchers and their call for equity.

"Being the daughter of a revolutionary, that's certainly part of me," she said with a smile. "I would like to be there because I have high expectations and ambition."

"I am very committed to the fact that civil society is just as important a participant in this process as the governments and the private sector."

But the demonstrators were wrong, she added, to think that progress was not being made.

"I have witnessed extraordinary progress over the last year, and even in the seven days since we have been here."

The first of some 130 ministers began to arrive over the weekend for the high-level segment of the talks starting on Tuesday.

They will decide the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the only international treaty limiting greenhouse gases, and whether to set the Green Climate Fund in motion.

Also on the table is a proposal from the European Union to set a 2015 deadline for hammering out a legally-binding climate deal covering all major emitters, to be implemented by 2020.

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Thousands march in Durban calling for 'climate justice'
Durban, South Africa (AFP) Dec 3, 2011 - Chanting "Amandla," the rallying cry of the South African anti-apartheid movement, thousands of people marched through the streets of Durban Saturday calling for "climate justice."

Their appeal was aimed at diplomats locked in negotiations under the 194-nation UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is tasked with beating back the ever-mounting threat of global warming.

The crowd, estimated by police at 6,500, snaked through the coastal city's downtown area shouting and singing against a backdrop of drums and vuvuzelas, the high-decibel plastic trumpets that gained worldwide notoriety when South Africa hosted the football World Cup.

Many in the crowd lashed out at the UN talks, which end next Friday, saying that they were moving too slowly in the face of potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change, and that many of the solutions proposed lean too heavily on the market.

"Climate Justice, not Climate Apartheid," read one hand-written banner, flanked by others saying "Stop Killing Earth" or simply, "Justice!"

"We want them to stop the boring texts they are drafting and become as lively this march," said Leo Saldanha, a climate activist from India.

"I don't think that can save the world, it's really movements and people that will force governments to change, not bureaucrats."

Sande Wycliffe, a 24-year-old Kenyan, said it was time to make Africa's voice heard.

"I am here to say to the world leaders that the time to act is now. They need to honour their promise of giving Africa ressources that we need... so we can make our environment secure for the future."

The peaceful demonstration, flanked by four armoured vehicles and riot police, was organised by a broad international coalition of environmental groups, farmers unions, and grassroots associations, organisers said.

"We are bringing the voice of people from South Africa and the world to say to those inside the negotiating rooms that that they have to actually take serious decisions on climate change," said South African Lubna Nadri of the group Women in Action.

Decisions so far, she complained, reflect more the interests of big corporations and oil industries than the poorest people, most exposed to heatwaves, drought and floods intensified by global warming.

"That's our message: we want climate justice, we don't want climate apartheid," she said.


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