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What is COP17/CMP7?

On 31 October 2011, in News, by Andrew Bennett
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COP17/CMP7 is a United Nations meeting between more than 190 countries from all over the world to find a solution to the global threat of human-made climate change.

The aim is to stop the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere getting to a level which would cause dangerous changes to the world’s climate system.

WHY IS IT CALLED COP17/CMP7?

This is the 17th meeting of the “Conference of the Parties” (COP) of the international treaty known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The first COP was held in Berlin, Germany in 1995 and there has been a meeting every year since then in many cities around the world.

The second part of the meeting is known as CMP 7 because it is the 7th meeting of countries which have agreed to the Kyoto Protocol.

WHO IS COMING?

About 15,000 official delegates are expected at COP17.

They will include presidents, ministers, senior government and UN officials, advisers, scientists, climate activist groups, business people and journalists.

WHERE IS IT HAPPENING?

The main official meetings will be held in the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban for two weeks (28 November to 9 December 2011).

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING DURING COP17?

There will be many activities and events happening throughout Durban that are open to the public. The Beachfront Green Festival will see the entire beachfront come alive with entertainment, music, art exhibitions and other activities.

The Climate Change Response Expo will showcase what local government and business are doing in terms of climate change initiatives and technology.

The Green Hub at Blue Lagoon and The Botanic Gardens will also be hosting activities, events and entertainment.

There will be separate meetings of civil society groups in the Curries Fountain/Durban University of Technology areas. A Global Day of Action protest march through the streets of Durban is planned for Saturday, 3 December 2011.

CAN ANYBODY ATTEND THE MAIN MEETING?

No. Anyone who wants to attend the main COP17/CMP7 meeting has to apply for accreditation (permission) from the United Nations in advance.

This is restricted to government representatives, accredited observer organisations and accredited press. Many of the committee meetings will also be behind closed doors and will not be open to the press and some observer bodies.

WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA?

One of the biggest issues is the future of the Kyoto Protocol and the need to reach a legally-binding agreement to prevent the average temperature of the earth from going up by more than 2°C. Some countries (especially small islands which are at risk of major flooding from rising sea level) think that it is better to make sure that the temperature does not increase by more than 1.5°C.

The big problem is that the United Nations’ expert group on climate change says that if nothing is done to reduce carbon levels, the average temperature of the earth is very likely to increase by between 2°C and 4.5°C (and possibly a lot more) before 2100.

Although this is a conference about saving the earth from severe changes to the climate, many of the negotiations will actually be about money and politics, as well as technical and legal issues.

The developing countries argue that developed countries have caused most of the problems over the last 200 years and therefore have to reduce their carbon emission levels more than the developing countries which are still building up their economies. The developed nations argue that every country needs to reduce greenhouse gas levels to avoid climate changes which will affect the entire world.

To avoid a temperature rise above 2°C, scientists say greenhouse gas levels must be reduced by at least 50% before 2030, yet the International Energy Agency says that emission levels will actually increase by 55% over the next 20 years. Scientists also think that some level of climate change cannot be avoided because of the amount of extra greenhouse gases which have been building up for nearly 200 years.

This is where some of the money talk comes in. Developing countries want the developed countries to pay for the cost of adapting to climate change. Some of the negotiations will be about the new Green Climate Fund, to decide who will pay how much into this fund and who will be able to get money from it.

WHAT IS THE KYOTO PROTOCOL?

The Kyoto Protocol is a legally-binding agreement to reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The protocol was set up in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, but it took another eight years before the treaty came into force in 2005.

The main feature of the Protocol is that it sets legally-binding targets for nearly 40 of the developed countries to reduce their joint greenhouse gas emissions by about 5% before the end of 2012 (compared to 1990 levels). The treaty recognises that these developed countries are mainly responsible for the high level of industrial greenhouse gas emitted over the last 200 years whereas developing, developing countries have not produced as many emissions over this time period.

Next year is a crucial deadline date because it marks the end of the Kyoto “first commitment period” of emission reductions which runs from 2008 to 2012. The original idea of the treaty was to steadily reduce the level of greenhouse gases in the air, and next year should mark the start of the “second commitment period” (2012 – 2016).

However, one of the world’s single biggest greenhouse gas emitters (the United States of America) has not yet signed the protocol, and now there are signs that some of the other rich nations are thinking of pulling out of a second period of reductions unless some of the bigger developing nations like China, India, Brazil and South Africa also agree to make legally-binding emission reductions.

Over the past few years, developed and developing nations have not been able to agree on who should be included in this second period of reductions, or about how big these reductions should be.

During the COP 15 meeting in Copenhagen two years ago, several governments announced plans to reduce emissions on a voluntary basis which is different to the compulsory reductions needed by the Kyoto Protocol. However, time has almost run out now, because the treaty will expire in December 2012 unless it is renewed. This is why the Durban meeting is so important – to find an agreement before the deadline.

Unless an agreement is reached at the Durban conference there is a strong possibility that the Kyoto Protocol could collapse entirely or that there will be a time gap in reducing greenhouse gas levels from 2012 onwards.

Distributed by Durban COP17/CMP7, eThewkini Municipality

Text by Tony Carnie. Taken, with permission, from “the Planet in Peril” poster series featured in The Mercury.

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3 Responses to “What is COP17/CMP7?”

  1. noxolo says:

    was the cop 17 useful or useless?

    • Andy Le May says:

      Hi Noxolo,

      These events seem more like a talking shop rather than tackling the issues. They are useful to raise the profile and share information but very little is actually happening. We need action not more talking.

  2. tlotlego says:

    i think its useful..

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