Durban Summit progress not inspiring

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 10 Aug 2011

The UN and the South African government are trying to alleviate concerns about the forthcoming Durban Climate Change Summit, after accusations of a “turf war” between the two departments organising the crucial meeting.

Around 15,000 people are expected to participate in the summit

Speaking to reporters late last week, UN conference coordinator Salwa Dallalah told reporters in Durban that preparations for the COP 17 summit remained on schedule. “We are moving very well and are on target,” she said. “We will finish our work soon.”

Her comments follow weeks of speculation among diplomats and green groups that preparations for the talks were not moving fast enough.

Privately some negotiators at the most recent round of UN talks in Bonn in June said the South African government was failing to lay the diplomatic ground work adequately for the crucial meeting, contrasting the preparations for Durban unfavourably with the work undertaken by the Mexican government ahead of last year’s Cancun Summit.

The recent rumours culminated last week in a report in the local Mail & Guardian newspaper, citing South African government sources frustrated by the turf war between the department of environmental affairs (DEA) and the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) over who should take responsibility for the summit.

“It’s a mess,” the anonymous source told the paper. “The ministers are fighting, and we don’t even have a website. We are not communicating enough.”

Green groups expressed similar fears that logistical and diplomatic preparations for the two-week summit were falling behind schedule.

“How are the preparations going? Not in an inspiring manner,” Richard Worthington, head of the climate programme at World Wildlife Fund South Africa, told news agency AFP. “From a diplomatic, preparing-the-ground point of view, we would like to see efforts stepped up significantly. Things have been slow getting going. It’s not too late to come right, but time is running out.”

According to the UN, around 15,000 people are expected to participate in the summit with a further 10,000 visiting Durban during the two-week meeting, scheduled to run from November 28 to December 9.

Previous summits have been marred by logistical issues. Delegates at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 faced long queues and repeated security checks before entering the conference centre.

South African officials were quick to quash concerns about preparations for the summit, insisting progress was being made and that the UN is happy with the current state of preparations.

Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters late last week that contrary to reports Dirco and the DEA were working well together, adding that accommodation details for delegates were being finalised, 20,000 hotel beds had been reserved, airlines had been asked to increase flights to South Africa, and visa and security arrangements were on track.

Meanwhile, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the South African delegation was also finalising the host’s official negotiating position and working with other African countries to ensure that the continent took a unified stance at the talks.

She reiterated South Africa’s commitment to cut emissions against business as usual projections by 34 per cent by 2020, although she stressed that steep reductions in emissions were dependent on financial and technological support from industrialised nations.

She also said that a full treaty was unlikely to be finalised in Durban, but expressed hope that agreement could be reached on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

“We don’t want South Africa to be the death of Kyoto protocol,” she told reporters, putting the host nation on a collision course with countries such as Japan and Russia that have said they do not want to see the Kyoto Protocol extended past 2012.

Source: Business Green

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