Durban Climate Change Conference

Durban Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conference has concluded its seventeenth session (COP 17/CMP 7) in Durban, South Africa, meeting from 28 November to the early hours of  11 December 2011.

As anticipated, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), serving also as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, focused more on rallying political will for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (in particular, the issue of the second commitment period for emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol and the establishment and making operational of the Green Climate Fund, as decided under the Cancún Agreements of 2010), rather than on pushing ahead with the preparation and adoption of a legally binding instrument to that effect.
As far as sectoral approaches are concerned, including international maritime transportation, the Conference noted the progress made by IMO in adopting, in July 2011, regulations on energy efficiency for ships under MARPOL Annex VI, as part of its three-pillar work plan to limit or reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from international shipping, as well as the Organization’s continuing work on market-based measures.

Although the question of what action needed to be taken on sectoral approaches was discussed at length, there was no suggestion that the reduction or limitation of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping should not continue to be for IMO to consider and act upon. Indeed, IMO was invited to continue informing future Conferences and their subsidiary bodies of the Organization’s further progress on this issue.

Commenting on the outcome of the Durban Conference, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos stated that, in his view, “by adopting the Durban Platform, the Conference has once again moved forward several items on its agenda, achieved further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol,  agreed a process leading to a new legally binding instrument and put in place mechanisms to give effect to the high-priority issues emerging from last year’s Cancún Agreements, including those related to technology, adaptation and climate finance.”

As to the objectives pursued at the Conference by IMO, namely:

– making the UNFCCC Parties aware of the significant advances made by the Organization on all three pillars of the Organization’s work plan (i.e. technical, operational and market-based measures); and

– that the Organization should continue pursuing its work by further refining the adopted technical and operational measures and by continuing to develop a complementary market-based measure,

Mr Mitropoulos added that, “although the Durban Conference did not make specific decisions on the international transport sector, the progress thus far made by IMO has been widely acknowledged throughout the negotiating bodies of the UNFCCC process. In the meantime, the status quo of the Kyoto Protocol concerning the pursuance, through IMO, of efforts to reduce or limit GHG emissions from international shipping remains unaltered.”

“Against this background”, he added, “IMO should continue, through next year’s two sessions of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, its work to progress its debate on market-based measures so that it can, through meaningful and inclusive negotiations, bring its action plan on climate change to a completion in a reasonably short time. Such an outcome will enable the Organization to present further tangible results to next year’s UN Conference on Climate Change, scheduled to reconvene in Qatar in December 2012, thus demonstrating its Members’ and the shipping industry’s continued commitment and determination to add IMO’s contribution to the world efforts to combat climate change”.