Will Durban produce a deal? Negotiators give it 24 more hours to do so

Publish date: December 9, 2011

Written by: Charles Digges

Bellona has learned that the Durban climate summit scheduled to end today will be extended until 6pm local time Saturday as a heated dispute between developing world countries struggled against the United States, China and India to keep the Kyoto Protocol alive.

Delegates from the EU bloc of nations and the United Nation confirmed to Bellona staff in Durban that the high-level segment of negotiations will continue through late tonight and tomorrow, and negotiators raced to reschedule flights to continue talks in what is a 24 hour overtime session.

Svend Søyland, Bellona’s senior adviser on international energy and climate issues and a veteran of several UN climate summits said: “to outsiders, this may seem comical. But it is clear that the delegates do not want to leave Durban without getting an agreement on the text in place.”

Søyland noted that the preparation of the negotiation text in Durban is highly guarded.

“One of the biggest differences between this climate summit in Durban and the past climate summit [in Cancun] is that the process of preparation of the texts is much more strict and closed than before,” said Søyland.

“This is a step back from what we at Bellona were used to.”

As of midnight in Durban, a new text was expected by 1 am, Bellona staff said by twitter.

According to various press reports a deadlock has developed between the world’s poorest countries, which are struggling against the world’s three biggest emitters to keep alive the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legally binding climate deal.

The Kyoto Protocol expires next year.

Under discussion in the back rooms was an extension of binding pledges by the European Union and a few other industrial countries to cut carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, the Associated Press reported.

The EU, the primary bloc bound by commitments under the 1997 protocol, conditioned an extension on starting new talks on an accord to replace Kyoto, at the latest by 2020. It insists the new agreement equally oblige all countries to abide by their emission targets.

Though China signaled early in the Durban negotiations that it would, for the first time, consider joining a legally binding agreement, it has apparently joined the US and India in trying to stave off a new round of Kyoto Protocol commitments, the current round of which ends next year.

None of the nations that are currently standing up against the Kyoto Protocol are signatories of the agreement. China and India did not sign it as “developing nations,” and the United States, under the Administration of Bill Clinton, did not ratify the Protocol after it was rejected by a heavily Republican Senate.

The European Union said after a negotiating session of 26 key ministers that lasted beyond 4 a.m. Friday that support was growing for its plan to negotiate a new accord for a post-2020 world, said AP.

But the optimism faded as the day wore on and China, India and the United States held firm.

More than 120 climate-vulnerable countries signed on to the EU vision calling for all countries to be held accountable for their carbon emissions in the future, not just the industrial countries. The U.S., China and India, all for slightly different reasons, have refused.

European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said hat if the three largest polluters stand fast, “I don’t think that there will be a deal in Durban.”

It would be conceivable that negotiators could continue through the weekend were it not for the fact that the venue for the talks, the Durban ICC, is also a popular concert venue.