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Interview: Durban conference "extremely important" for developing nations

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- The climate change negotiations that begin on Monday in Durban, South Africa, could have significant outcomes for developing countries, David Turnbull, director of the Climate Action Network (CAN) International told Xinhua in a recent phone interview.

Turnbull said the Durban meeting, formally called the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17), is an "extremely important negotiation" for these nations, which tend to bear the brunt of the negative impacts of climate change while having contributed little to the global problem.

COP 17, will run until Dec. 9 and bring together national governments, international officials, and civil society. CAN, a global network of more than 700 non-governmental organizations ( NGOs) from 95 countries, will be well-represented in Durban.

"We'll be there meeting with negotiators from countries around the world, talking to the media, and really just trying to push for all of the different kinds of positions and policies that we think are necessary," said Turnbull.

"Ahead of Durban we have been participating as we do every year in all of the preparatory conferences that have taken place over the last several months and we've developed a joint position on the Durban talks themselves that we call our Durban expectations that outline all of the different positions that we are putting forward as necessary for parties in Durban to agree on."

Turnbull explained that one of CAN's major policy goals for Durban is obtaining a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, the world's sole legally binding international agreement to cut green house gas emissions. COP 17 is occurring simultaneously in Durban with the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties(CMP 7) to the protocol.

"Our view and I think the view of developing countries in general is that the Kyoto Protocol the best and the only legally binding agreement we have that currently exists, and so we need to see it continue and we need countries that are part of it to agree to a second commitment period of emission reduction that would ideally be in line with the science in order to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming," he said.

The Kyoto Protocol, first adopted in 1997, sets binding emissions reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for the period 2008-2012. Since the first commitment period ends in 2012, negotiators at Durban will seek to get an agreement for a second commitment period, though there are still divisions between countries on what the terms of the new commitment should be.

Turnbull explained that aside from guaranteeing a second commitment period, CAN would also like to see states at Durban set the stage for a new, future legally-binding agreement.

"A second piece would be to agree to a negotiating pathway for all countries including those that are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol, to agree to a pathway to agree on another legally binding agreement by 2015," he said.

Past UN conferences on climate change, like COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009 and COP 16 in Cancun in 2010, have failed to produce a new binding agreement on emissions reduction.

Another important issue on the negotiating table at COP 17 is that of the Green Climate Fund. Through the fund, industrialized countries are slated to provide 100 billion U.S. dollars per year by 2020 to help support developing countries in their efforts to adapt to climate change and mitigate its negative impacts.

"The Green Climate Fund was agreed to in Cancun and over the past year a transitional committee has been working to develop some of the modalities of how that fund would be established," said Turnbull. "We want to see that actually operationalized in Durban."

Turnbull said that if current commitment levels from industrialized countries stay as they are, there is no way of reaching the 100-billion-dollar threshold. He stressed that CAN would like to see countries identify potential sources of finance to meet the fund's demands.

There have been disagreements between countries about the structure and design of Green Climate Fund as well. Developing countries have stated their preference for direct access to national climate change trust funds, but developed countries have said they would prefer to use a third-party channel, such as the World Bank.

Another element of the climate change regime that was guaranteed at Cancun is the formation of a Technology Mechanism, headed by an executive committee. The mechanism, accompanied by a Climate Technology Center and Network (CTCN) would help facilitate the movement of important technologies for climate change adaptation and mitigation, to the developing countries that need them.

Turnbull said that though technology transfer is somewhat less controversial than other aspects of climate change talks, it should be seen as a priority in Durban "because in order to actually be able to utilize the financing that's provided and in order to ensure that the countries are actually meeting their energy needs and otherwise in a sustainable way, we need to ensure that this technology transfer can occur."

CAN would like to see progress at COP 17 in certain details of technology transfer that have not yet been defined, such as a work plan for CTCN, according to Turnbull.

"We think that there's a way that that can be discussed in Durban productively, so we want to see key objectives defined for the clean technology center," he said.

Turnbull noted that the technology transfer mechanism should operate with country-driven regulatory policies and ensure that assessments of developing countries' technology needs are clear.

He also said that there is symbolic significance to the fact that COP 17 is taking place in Africa, which only makes the need to fight climate change feel more urgent.

"To be hosting a COP on African soil really highlights the importance of this issue and the importance of the negotiations given the ongoing climate disasters in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, given the fact that Africa is least responsible for the problem and yet the most vulnerable as well," he said.

"So we're quite concerned that we'll see various progress in these negotiations in Durban and, for instance, it would be really disheartening to see the death of the Kyoto Protocol happen on African soil. So we're pushing hard to ensure that that isn't going to be the case and we are optimistic that parties will listen to us as well."

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