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Durban climate conference 2011

The 2011 United Nations ministerial conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa achieved a breakthrough in the fight against global warming. The conference, which ran from 28 November until 11 December - two days longer than scheduled - agreed to launch negotiations on a new legal framework for more ambitious climate action by all countries, developed and developing alike. The new regime will be implemented from 2020.


For EU media materials and side-event presentations in Durban, see:

This decision marked a major success for the European Union, which had made agreement on such a negotiations "roadmap" its key demand for Durban and a condition for entering into a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Following agreement on the roadmap and on the strengthening of certain Kyoto rules, the EU confirmed it will participate in the second period of the Protocol beginning in 2013.

Another key outcome from Durban was agreement to make the Green Climate Fund for developing countries operational. The conference also established a new market-based mechanism to promote cost-effective emission reductions, and launched a workplan for stepping up the ambition level of the emissions action countries have pledged to take by 2020.

Overall, the Durban outcome very largely met the EU's goals. It covers four main areas:

Future global legal framework for climate action

The conference launched negotiations on a new UN legal framework for more ambitious climate action – to take the form of a protocol, another legal instrument or an "agreed outcome with legal force" – that will cover all countries. The negotiations under this "Durban Platform for Enhanced Action" will start in the first half of 2012 and the new legal framework will be adopted in 2015 and implemented from 2020.

Durban Climate Conference © Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Through effective climate diplomacy the EU successfully built support for the roadmap among developing nations that are most vulnerable to climate change, namely the least developed countries, small island states and African countries. As the conference neared its climax the EU issued a joint callpdf(9 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  hese countries urging other Parties to raise the level of ambition of global climate action and agree on next steps in Durban, including the negotiations roadmap and the second Kyoto commitment period.

The decision notes with grave concern the significant "ambition gap" between countries' collective emissions reduction pledges for 2020 and the agreed objective of keeping global warming below 2°C compared with the pre-industrial temperature or a temperature ceiling of 1.5°. A workplan was launched to identify options for closing this gap with a view to "ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties." The workplan was a joint initiative of the EU and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Kyoto Protocol second commitment period

The conference decided that the second commitment period will start on 1 January 2013 and run until 2017 or 2020. The end date and the emission targets for developed countries taking part will be fixed at the UN climate conference to be held at the end of 2012 in Qatar.

Revised rules on how developed countries are to account for emissions from land use, land use change and forestry were agreed which meet the EU's objective of strengthening the Protocol's environmental integrity. The basket of greenhouse gases covered by the Protocol will be expanded to seven through the addition of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

The question of how to manage the huge surplus of emission rights(known as "assigned amount units" or AAUs) from the first commitment period – another crucial issue for Kyoto's environmental integrity - will be decided in Qatar. For the EU, the solution to this issue must be non-discriminatory and preserve incentives for the overachievement of emission targets.

Green Climate Fund

The design of the new Green Climate Fund for developing countries was completed through a decision on its governance and other practical arrangements. This opens the way for the Fund to become operational in 2012.

Long-term cooperative action

A further decision covering a wide range of topics built on the 2010 Cancún Agreements. Among other things, this decision:

  • Completed the design of new bodies and mechanisms set up to support developing countries - the Standing Committee on climate finance, the Adaptation Committee andthe Technology Mechanism. This opens the way for them to become operational;
  • Finalised detailed rules for enhancing the transparency of national action on emissions, in order to promote mutual trust between countries;
  • Established a new market-based mechanism to enhance cost-effective action to reduce emissions;
  • Launched a process to consider climate issues related to agriculture, with a view to taking a decision at the end of 2012.