The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference – COP 17 – started on Monday, November 28, 2011 in the coastal city of Durban, South Africa, with a welcoming ceremony and speeches by the President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob G. Zuma, the Minister of Foreign Relations and COP 17 President, Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Mexico and President of COP 16, Ms. Patricia Espinosa Castellano, and the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Ms. Christiana Figueres, among other important dignitaries.
In his opening speech, Mr. Jacob G Zuma, President of South Africa, committed the country to a reduction of 32 percent of GHG emissions by 2020, showing his absolute support to combat climate change. The President of COP17 and the UNFCCC Executive Secretary urged the parties to work collaboratively towards implementing the agreements reached at COP16 in Cancun last year, specifically the Green Climate Fund, which aims to finance climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives in the next decade.
This COP is particularly important because of the uncertainty around the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, the legally-binding pact adopted in 1997 that sought to reduce 5% of GHG emissions from 1990 levels from 13 developed nations. The Protocol’s first commitment period is due in 2012 and Durban is an important step towards designing a framework for the next global climate regime. As of now, it is not certain if the parties will re-commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Countries like Canada, Russia and Japan have hinted that they will not re-commit and the current economic crisis in Europe does not guarantee that the European Union will commit either.
The next two weeks are crucial to define the future environmental well being of our planet. ITDP will be present at the COP 17 throughout both weeks of negotiations and will speak in several side events and panel discussions around the subject of reducing emissions from the transport sector. Stay tuned for further blog posts and tweets at @ITDP_HQ during the conference.