Breakthrough at Durban Climate Change Conference
11 December 2011
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The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet has welcomed the outcome of the Durban climate change conference which has made a significant breakthrough in tackling global warming.
The historic Durban agreement opens the way to bring all of the world's major greenhouse gas emitters - including the United States and important developing economies like China, India and Brazil - into a new international legal framework for reducing carbon pollution.
In addition, the 194 countries represented at the United Nations conference adopted a package of measures which will consolidate and build on the extensive actions already under way around the world to reduce emissions.
These Durban outcomes are good news for the environment.
They set the world on a path of long-term action to tackle climate change through a regime with wide global coverage and strong environmental effectiveness.
They will complement Australia's carbon price mechanism by boosting confidence in global mitigation efforts, providing a sound basis for investment in clean energy and stimulating growth in carbon markets.
The Australian Government went to Durban with three key objectives: building on emissions reduction pledges made at last year's UN conference in Cancun; taking the next steps towards a legal framework to cover all major emitters; and promoting market mechanisms to cut emissions in the lowest cost.
Durban has delivered on each of these objectives.
Firstly, it has built on the decisions made in Cancun where 90 countries representing 80 per cent of global emissions made pledges to reduce carbon pollution by 2020 as part of a goal of keeping average temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In Durban, countries ensured further progress on this agenda by agreeing to:
- Improved transparency and better monitoring, reporting and verification of countries' emissions reduction actions;
- Governance arrangements which will establish a new Green Climate Fund to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change;
- Progress the REDD+ mechanism which will reward developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation;
- Develop 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;
- Rules for a new Technology mechanism to speed up transfer of low pollution technologies to developing countries.
These initiatives will add momentum to the extensive climate change action already under way around the world and provide a strong foundation for reducing emissions through to 2020. The transparency measures are especially welcome because they will ensure countries deliver on their emissions reduction pledges.
The second achievement at Durban was the adoption of a mandate for parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to negotiate a new legal agreement by 2015. The new agreement would take effect from 2020.
A central element of this mandate is that the new agreement will establish for the first time a common legal framework applying to both developed and developing countries.
This is an important first step towards a comprehensive agreement covering all major economies.
If the agreement is concluded it will see developing countries take on obligations, allowing the world to move on from the Kyoto Protocol's unsustainable divide between developed and developing countries and ensuring all nations do their fair share to cut global emissions.
The US, which has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and China have agreed to be part of the new legal architecture. These two countries account for 37 per cent of global emissions, so their decision to join a new international legal framework is a breakthrough. They are also Australia's major trading partners.
The timetable for concluding this agreement will allow parties to take account of the latest science in the next IPCC report in 2014 and the UNFCCC's 2013-15 review of the goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees.
As a bridge to 2020, a number of developed countries intend to make new emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol when its current commitment period ends in 2012.
The Australian Government went to Durban saying it would only enter a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol if all major emitters were covered by a new legal framework.
We argued that a broader global solution was needed. The world has now adopted a mandate for achieving this solution.
Australia's third objective of promoting carbon markets was also progressed at Durban.
The Durban decisions will encourage expansion of carbon markets which cut emissions at the lowest cost.
Kyoto Protocol rules will continue to provide for market mechanisms like the Clean Development Mechanism. The Clean Development Mechanism generates carbon credits which Australian businesses will be able to access under the Clean Energy Act's carbon price mechanism.
Australia reached agreement at Durban with the European Union and New Zealand to examine opportunities to link Australia's carbon price mechanism with their emissions trading schemes.
Mr Combet met colleagues from China, Korea and California, where emissions trading schemes are being established, and agreed to share information and exchange expertise.
He also discussed cooperation with Japan and Indonesia on developing carbon markets our region.
Promoting carbon markets and international linking of these markets will benefit Australia's economy by allowing pollution to be reduced at the lowest cost wherever it can be achieved around the world.
Climate change is a global environmental challenge which can only be solved with global action.
The outcomes of the Durban conference will continue driving this action and the Australian Government will continue playing a leading and responsible role in these efforts.
Media contact: Mark Davis 0400 295 560; Gia Hayne 0412 060 406
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