The Durban Climate Conference between Success and Frustration

In: Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law

The outcomes of the Durban climate change conference leave plenty of room for interpretation and are generally ambivalent. Climate negotiators launched a new negotiation track that is expected to result in a legally meaningful agreement by all parties (developed and developing) to kick-in in 2020. The establishment of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action signaled a significant departure from the developed/ developing country divide that permeates the Protocol. It further committed countries to a process leading an ‘outcome with legal force’; arguably more than a mere political agreement.

Durban also succeeded in securing a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, albeit with fewer developed countries. However, the conference did not succeed in extracting any new substantive commitments from countries. The wording of the Durban Platform is unspecific and contains ample room for interpretation. The diversity and complexity of the issues at hand help explaining the slow progress on the substance. While international negotiators continue to seek compromise on many issues, subnational governments, private actors, and civil society have started implementing climate solutions. If the climate challenge is to be overcome, international climate talks must be able to pick up on these initiatives and more quickly step-up to its role as a central coordinator and catalyst of efforts.

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    Bloomberg, 7 December 2011, available at

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