Paradigm Change in Global Climate Policy

Bern, 11.12.2011 - Following tough negotiations, the 17th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban (South Africa) ended with a positive outcome on Sunday, 11 December 2011. In future, all countries will be obliged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of the scale of their emissions and their capacity to reduce them.

According to the resolution passed in Durban, the major emitters of greenhouse gases, such as the USA and the newly industrialised countries of China, Brazil, India and South Africa, are willing to begin a process that will be completed in 2015 and will conclude with a legally binding climate protection agreement.

Paradigm change enables breakthrough

This agreement will no longer divides the states into industrialised and developing countries, as was the case up to now, and will instead classify all countries on the basis of the scale of their greenhouse gas emissions and their capacity to reduce them. "Thanks to this paradigm change, it was possible to achieve significant progress at the international climate negotiations," said FOEN Director Bruno Oberle, who represented Switzerland at the negotiations until the conclusion of the conference in the early hours of Sunday morning.

With the concessions agreed to by the newly industrialised countries and the USA, the conditions stipulated by the EU, New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland for a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol were fulfilled. It will now be possible to continue the Kyoto Protocol from 2013 without any gaps in its implementation.

The climate conference of 2009 in Copenhagen had aimed to achieve a similar result. However, the time was not yet ripe for such an agreement. Thanks to the skilful management of the 2010 climate conference in Cancún (Mexico), trust was re-established between the parties and the foundations were laid for the success of the negotiations in Durban.

Agreement also reached on the Green Climate Fund

The 194 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also reached an agreement at their 17th conference on the modalities for the implementation of the Green Climate Fund, which will be used to support developing countries in the implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures. The increasing of the corresponding financing was not on the agenda in Durban.

A new instrument for dealing with the challenges facing agriculture as a result of climate change was also created under the UNFCCC in Durban. Finally, the process for the reduction of deforestation was also defined. Deforestation contributes to at least one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.


Global problem requires a global response

Since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, continuous progress has been made in the area of global climate protection. Thanks to the Kyoto Protocol, all industrialised countries, apart from the USA, committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. However, these measures are not sufficient to resolve the world's climate problem. Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. Hence, the USA,  newly industrialised countries like China, Brazil and India, and oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar must undertake to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

In view of the rapidly increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the multilateral process implemented in accordance with the UNFCCC has often proven cumbersome. Nevertheless, the negotiations are important and useful: the climate problem is global and requires a global response. The negotiations staged within the framework of the UNFCCC provide Switzerland as a small country with the most suitable platform for representing its interests. The UN climate system is not the only solution to the climate problem. However, it is an important driving force for innovation in the area of clean technology  and climate-friendly technologies.

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