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U.S. Climate Change Envoy Prepares for Talks
November 23, 2011

By Charlene Porter
IIP Staff Writer

22 November 2011


International cooperative actions to mitigate climate change will be up for discussion when a major international meeting convenes in Durban, South Africa, November 28 through December 9. The chief U.S. negotiator, Todd Stern, expects that this year’s session on the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will build on progress made in the last two years.

In a November 22 press briefing, Stern said the agreement that emerged from a meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in 2010 was “a solid commitment by all the parties — nobody takes it lightly,” even though it is not a legally binding act.

Some discussions will take an even longer view, Stern said, looking at the possibilities for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions after 2020. The U.S. envoy said the United States’ negotiators need to know the details of any such agreement before they would agree to adherence. The United States would insist that any long-range commitment “fully applies to all significant countries,” Stern said.

Stern noted other provisions of the Cancún agreement that he considers to be solid achievements toward containing climate change. Both developed and developing countries make comparable commitments on actions they will undertake to ease greenhouse gas emissions and turn back the thermostat on global warming. The agreement outlines a system of transparency that, Stern said, would keep nations on track to make the GHG reductions they had pledged.

The Cancún agreement also includes provisions on how to reduce deforestation in developing countries and establishes a climate technology center. In the event that adverse effects of climate change — such as rising seas — are already occurring in some low-lying countries, the Cancún agreement also spells out proposals on promoting international cooperation and action to help these countries and their citizens adapt to a changing environment.

Another provision of the Cancún agreement calls for establishing a Green Climate Fund to help less-developed nations adopt energy-efficient technologies and adapt to adverse consequences of climate change as they occur. Stern said the United States is “a strong supporter of the basic concept” and is optimistic that an agreement on the final details of the mechanism can be reached in Durban.

Overall, Stern said he is optimistic that the Durban meeting could produce a forward-looking agreement, “one that is balanced across the issues and makes good progress on all those issues.”