COP17: How the deal was reached

By Tierney Smith, John Parnell and Ed King
RTCC in Durban

UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres says COP17 has guaranteed policy certainty and laid a path for a new climate regime well into the future.

A positive result at the conference was uncertain up until the early hours of Sunday morning, before an EU-sponsored roadmap based around a framework of legally binding targets gained traction.

Even at the last moment there were deep splits between parties, but a ‘huddle’ between key players – the EU, USA, and India – developed a path forward, culminating in an agreement to adopt the ‘Durban package’.

As a result the EU’s emission-cutting pledges will now be legally-bound, inside the Kyoto Protocol. Talks on a new legal deal covering all states will begin in 2012 and end by 2015, coming into effect by 2020.

You can watch a clip of the EU Press Conference here:

We’ll bring you more coverage including quotes, reaction, videos and pictures later today. You can follow how the package unfolded via our 23-hour live blog below.


0530 (ish)

@rtcc_edking And that’s that….I’ve lost track of the time. COP17 MINISTER MASHABANE ANNOUNCES CONFERENCE IS CLOSED! The delegates stand and applaud the COP President and UNFCCC chief…the Brazilian Ambassador’s already heading up to hug Christiana Figueres. I grab a quick word with one of the Norwegian team. Says it’s everything they wanted and more. A solid roadmap for the future, and promise of a legally binding treaty. When more information on what the roadmap is we’ll let you know. I’m zonked – and off to the press conferences.

0500 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Early reaction to today’s developments regarding the EU-pushed package is below (although to be fair we still don’t have too much information – bar what was said in the plenary)

UK: Source in delegation tells me they are pleased, although ‘too tired to talk much sense’. This deal Represents ‘closure’ after Copenhagen with a comprehensive roadmap towards binding emission targets.

UNFCCC Chief Christiana Figueres: Listen up! We have Kyoto CP2, path toward future with legal force for all, Green Climate Fund full implementation of Cancun package! #COP17 remarkable new phase in climate regime. Critical next step, and still insufficient. Must continue raising ambition.

Russia: ‘Very disappointed on format chosen to allow agreement. did not allow us to participate in a dignified way’

BBC’s Richard Black: Countries are likely to agree to start talks next year on a roadmap leading to a global agreement “with legal force”, taking effect by 2020 at the latest.

0435 (GMT+2)

Decisions coming thick and fast. LCA text was pushed through by the COP with no edits. Mashabane seems to have gavelitus – banging it every few minutes…

0355 (GMT+2)

Informal plenary closes – now onto the AWG-KP Plenary….room now very hot and stuffy. I just popped out and I can reveal it/me/we all stink. In theory given the last package this should be easy!!

0345 (GMT+2)

UPDATE: @rtjklein: What was agreed on was the formulation of the legal status of future commitments.

0340 (GMT+2)

The huddle is over, with smiles all round. Christiana Figueres has a spark in her eye….statements:

#India: We have showed our flexibility and we agree to adopt new text
#EU: We believe now we have poss to develop new legal instrument or outcome with legal force applicable to all parties

Cue round of applause. Hard to say exactly what has been agreed, but it looks like a strong package may have been agreed here at COP17 in Durban.

0325 (GMT+2)

And here’s a pic of the huddle. As huddle’s go, it’s more of a mass cuddle…

0320 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking The Dutch lead negotiator Maas Goote tells me he’s hopeful about the ‘huddle’…and then grins: “You can’t have a cop without a huddle…it’s all about your huddle technique”. UK SOS for Energy and CC Chris Huhne is in the middle, with Todd Stern (looking, well, stern), Jayanthi Natarajan and the EU’s Connie Hedegaard, who is really taking a leading role here.

0310 (GMT+2)

Exciting times in the main plenary – internet slowed to a halt hence no updates! Informal COP broke up for a ‘huddle’ involving EU, India, Brazil, USA and COP17 President Mashabane. If they can agree on wording we may have a deal on our hands. Of course, no-one really knows what will be in the deal. But it’s something to celebrate for now.

0150 (GMT+2)

Here’s the Indian outburst from negotiator Jayanthi Natarajan – the last 2 minutes…

0140 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Plenary running for 45 mins now.

-EU demands ‘legal instrument’ and binding legislation from 2018. Backed by Swiss, Colombia, Grenada so far
-India expresses rage at lack of equity – offers to redo whole text – but says it will back ‘legal instrument’
-Bangladesh confirms it is for a ‘legal instrument’….in an eloquent but typically verbose speech

0015 (GMT+2)

RTCC spoke to Venezuela’s chief negotiator Claudia Salerno and asked her why she protested, and who had threatened her…this was her response:

2345 (GMT+2)

LCA meeting is gavelled – not before a last-minute intervention from Venezuela’s delegate, standing on her chair and banging the table with her country’s name tag. She accuses unnamed persons or countries of making two threats, one to remove the Green Climate Fund and the other against #KP2, should the LCA not be passed. Anyway – it’s too late – it has been sent to the COP.

2320 (GMT+2)

USA chief climate negotiator Todd Stern takes the floor – calls on delegates not to miss a major opportunity and pass the LCA text. Added that combined with #KP2 it represented a major package. Almost wistful when mentioning Kyoto. You just wonder whether deep down he regrets the US lack of involvement.

2310 (GMT+2) reporting that this conference could end with some very very weak proposals, should no consensus be reached.

No surprise when arguments over the wording of a document can dominate discussions – take the EU’s fight to have ‘legal instrument’ over ‘legal outcome’

2300 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Variety of perspectives on LCA document, which again, you can see here:

Bolivia – Still not happy (see this morning’s video), no focus on emission targets, finance unclear, developing states not supported in adaptation
Venezuela – Financial aspects of Green Climate Fund not up to scratch. Unhappy there are not enough details on where funding would come from.
EU: If we try to change this text collectively it risks being undone, but would like to have seen more quantifiable emission targets
Malaysia: Level of ambition for non-Annexe I parties is totally missing. No targets for Annexe I countries shifts responsibility onto developing countries. Provides a ‘great escape’ for some parties….LCA has also made a decision for new market-based mechanisms.

2220 (GMT+2)

Think the conference is falling in love with Venezuela’s glamorous representative, even as she piles into the ‘developed’ world. While she does that here’s a shot of the main Plenary in session right now with the AWG-LCA:

2200 (GMT+2)

Strong statement from Philippines. Links between Adaptation and Finance are growing weaker. My country has GIVEN GIVEN GIVEN, and we have suffered badly from climate change.

Positive is the Green Climate Fund – but again criticises its ‘weakness’ and lack of funding. A very moving and personal speech from the Philippines delegate, drawing on the suffering of his country, its need for Adaptation funds and his concern that developing states are being abandoned by the ‘developed’ world.

2155 (GMT+2)

DRC representative clearly articulating feelings of many developing states in LCA debate that it does not represent them. ‘The text does not reflect the balance of the Convention’

2132 (GMT+2)

AWG-LCA Plenary is underway – chaired by the USA’s Daniel A. Reifsnyder for the last time – you can watch it on the UNFCCC website. A key piece of text and one criticised as ‘killing developing countries’ by some analysts. See the 1245 post from Lim Li Lin at NGO Third World Network.

2130 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Just seen quotes from French Environment Minister accusing SA Presidency of ‘poor time management’:

“We are in the worst situation, that of failure because of time management,” Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said. “We are risking failure because of a lack of negotiations, a lack of confrontation,” she added. “Last night, the conference [chair] did not even seem to take the problem of time into account.”

Who knows. This will come out in the next few weeks. All I would say is that President Zuma was late at the opening ceremony and late at the Momentum for Change presentation, keeping Ban Ki Moon waiting.

2115 (GMT+2)

Session adjourned. Lou Gray from the Daily Telegraph has just popped over. With the words I definitely did not want to hear. This is going to go on tomorrow. #williteverend

Worth remembering that a big deal could still be made here – and what is at stake. But after 48 hours of non-stop diplomacy, drafting documents and fine-tuning legal aspects of four different documents numbering 100s of pages, you have to ask what frame of mind the delegates are in. Is it right that such an important issue is decided when minds are so weary?

2105 (GMT+2)

Some internet problems inside plenary – everyone at the back is frantically typing and tweeting. Interesting to note the criticisms the EU have suffered over past hour – often over lack of ambition. Grenada came to the EU’s defence with a strongly worded intervention – pointing out they were the only ones who had actually come with an idea.

Brazil: We don’t have the good text. We don’t have the best text. We are in a political moment that requires action and movement forward, and requires the understanding which could make COP17 a major breakthrough in this convention.

1950 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Still inside plenary, it’s now the AWG-KP plenary. An intervention from an urgent EU Connie Hedegaard kicks off proceedings – you can watch the full plenary on the UNFCCC website.

1920 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Clearly it’s unbecoming of a President to get angry – so maybe this was the best Mashabane’s speechwriters could come up with. Anyway – here are the top lines…

-Do not lose the ability to be courageous pioneers – agree to accept the Durban package
-All of us have our specific national interest at heart
-The draft text is the culmination not only of 2 weeks but a year’s hard work
-This is a matter of survival for small island states
-Have faith in your political ability to accept the outcome
-There will be time to be ambitious and pursue our own interests in the times to come
-The system remains fragile and will not survive another shock

1910 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking And lo the plenary came and went. An 8 minute speech by COP17 President Mashabane. Why knock someone when they’re down, but let’s be clear – Mashabane sounded desperate. This was a speech high on rhetoric and low on any detail whatsoever, delivered to a sullen audience of diplomats, ministers and media.

Her faltering pitch boiled down to a few key themes – such as they were…

-the deal on the table isn’t great but it’s the best we’ll get
-we can all be ambitious in the future…if we just sign now
-the process will collapse if there is no agreement

1825 (GMT+2)

Still no sign of anyone important…

1810 (GMT+2)

Just to get us in the mood – here’s Tom Youngman from @UKYCC telling his audience at the Youth Press Conference at 1430 today exactly what he would like to hear tonight.

1800 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking sitting in the main plenary, having zoomed out of the ICC to check into my 3rd hotel in as many nights. Four rows back from a line of campaigners calling for ‘climate justice now’, and six from the line of official UN observers. While the NGO and media seats are filling up, the state delegate seats largely remain empty.

1749 (GMT+2)

This from EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard via twitter: “Finally we are getting to the crunch issues. And making progress. The time pressure is almost physically felt in the room. Nerve-breaking!”

She sounds happier than earlier in the day when she was allegedly spotted having a tantrum when presented with a draft text! Herself and UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres are nothing if not passionate.

1648 (GMT+2)

@rtccnewswire: Fifteen minutes now till the showdown meeting in Durban, perhaps the last showdown meeting of this COP, perhaps not! Ridiculous story about the “fake texts” that circulated the ICC earlier. Plenty of rumours about who is responsible, not sure we’ll ever know for definite.

1558 (GMT+2)

@rtccnewswire: This story is doing the rounds on twitter right now. Christiana Figueres has told ABC news that the US is losing leadership to China. She also repeats the claim she made in front of our cameras earlier in the week, that the States is shooting itself in the foot economically by ignoring green opportunities.

1540 (GMT+2)

A quick flavour from the #YOUNGO Press Conference – spiky…!

1535 (GMT+2)

Many delegates heading out to sort their accomodation – Joburg’s two big teams are heading here for a match – Bucanneers v Bidwest Wits. 70,000 fans plus grumpy delegates. Could be carnage.

1520 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Stocktaking Plenary cancelled.  Not really a shock now.

Have just come from a fiery #YOUNGO press conference. Panel of four all spoke well on their feelings about process – particularly Tom Youngman from @UKYCC. But calls for a clear and binding deal will fall on deaf ears, if rumours are to be believed. Will post video later.

1427 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking There seem to be real concerns here that time is rapidly slipping away. Members of the UNFCCC Secretariat are leaving for the airport – and while these are non-key personnel – down the line it will inevitably add stress. Mark Lynas, in his capacity as advisor to the Maldives, has tweeted that the 1.30 meeting is crucial, as ‘so many people are leaving – the last chance to save the Durban mandate’. The BBC’s Richard Black, who was optimistic about the talks earlier this morning, also says that ministers are also heading from Durban. It is worth stressing that everyone here knows that no deal would be little short of a catastrophe for the process and the UNFCCC. A year of hard work is coming down to a few hours. Meanwhile groups around the venue are huddling and scrawling their way through the LCA (see comments below). A deeply unpopular text with many, could it be adopted by all simply to save face?

1410 (GMT+2)

Stocktaking plenary at 3pm. Sadly may impact on media heading to Youth Press Conference at 230pm – pity as #YOUNGO groups have been real stars at this conference.

1317 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking UN contacts tell us a plenary is expected at 4-5pm this afternoon. But given current timings that could be tomorrow at this rate. Some real fury here among NGO groups at what is being branded as a ‘sell-out’ by the developed nations.

1315 (GMT+2)

Spoke to Bob Ward from LSE’s Grantham Institute a couple of hours ago. Fast moving situation so elements are changing – but here is his analysis, which I think is worth reading…

There’s a text currently being discussed by countries – laying out key elements of the so called roadmap. That roadmap is aimed at an overall agreement, much along the lines of what the European Union wanted coming in – a negotiation beginning immediately towards some legal form that would be agreed by 2015 and would include all countries. My understanding is that at this stage it has the overwhelming support of developing countries, but some big countries are still not behind it…China, India the USA are still resisting. Because of that the EU has not made it clear that it will commit to a 2nd period of the Kyoto Protocol which is what they put on the table in return for this potential roadmap.

I can’t tell what will be the way forward…SA deserves credot for having created a friendly atmosphere here for the talks, and for that reason there has been less tension than Copenhagen. These are always very difficult matters. I think the developing countries have been the most constructive – the reason we are having difficulties if that rich countries are not accepting their responsibilities that they should…we’re in the position we are in today because of the rich countries. They also have the means to support action in developing countries.

1245 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Have been chatting to Lim Li Lin from NGO Third World Network who was reading through the LCA text. It’s a hefty sheaf of notes and the acronym stands for Long Term Cooperative Action – it’s of particular relevance to developing countries. Here’s what she told me:

This document is divided into 2 parts. All issues of interest to developing countries are being deferred to next year…such as equity and historical responsibility, global goals for finance and capacity building, important issues on trade and intellectual property. Everything that the Annexe-I countries didn’t like they have pushed until next year. I hope it won’t go through – it would be worse to adopt this than to adopt nothing. If we had more time we could work it through.

Under this pressure cooker atmosphere it would be a big mistake to adopt this package. There is nothing on ambition in KP and LCA text. Annexe-I have locked in their low ambition – so the planet will fry.

1225 (GMT+2)

Greg Barker interview with RTCC now live:

1220 (GMT+2)

Good summary on the negotiations from Oxfam’s Policy Officer Tim Gore on tcktcktck:

Shortly after midnight, the South African Presidency returned with new text with an opening for much higher levels of ambition and a new formulation around the legal form of the outcome. The new text recognizes with “grave concern” the significant emissions gap using language around legal form that draws on the Berlin mandate that led to the Kyoto Protocol (“protocol or another legal instrument”) along with much stronger language requiring an increase in ambition under a much tighter timeline for adoption.

However a number of issues are left unclear including when the new agreement will enter into force, and exactly what the process to increase mitigation efforts will look like. China and India are also likely to note the absence of any reference to the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ in the process for the new agreement.

1140 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Just spoken to UK Minister for Energy Greg Barker. Optimistic a deal can be made here that will see legally binding targets by 2015. Says negotiations are ‘tense’ but ‘nobody is panicking’. Stressing the legal and time-constraint elements…it might be that’s what the EU team will take for a success in terms of the big picture.

1055 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking I’m hearing the Indaba Text has been accepted. EU not too happy but will go along in order to gain other concessions later today. Full details on that document here:

RE timings – Bob Ward from LSE reckons the UN only have the ICC booked until 6pm tonight – so it’s pretty simple – get a deal done by then or get thrown out!

1040 (GMT+2)

Delegates from NGOs and government poring through documents all around us in cafe – US woman next to me incredulous that main document includes large elements on ‘workshops’….workshops?? ‘All clarification of pledges but nothing that says anyone has to stick to anything’ she says.

1005 (GMT+2)

More from Rene: Some of the parties who are going to be part of the 2nd commitment period have not put a number, not a year, and we are very much concerned about that…also concerned about references to carbon markets…possibility to use that [and carbon credits] in order not to make, fulfill or comply with commitments related to carbon emission reduction…we do not agree with carbon markets….but we are in progress talking with other parties – we hope we can make quick progress.

0955 (GMT+2)

Bolivian negotiator Rene Gonzalo Orellana Halkyer on main proposal:

We have read it – we’re still analysing the document. There was a danger we could arrive at 2020 without a clear legally binding instrument…we do have concerns regarding the numbers and commitments…it’s uncertain what is going to be the percentage of cuts in emissions of what must be done by 2020, and we have uncertainty about the 2nd commitment period. We have not seen clarity in terms of emission limitations

0920 (GMT+2)

VIDEO: I’ve just spoken to Bolivian negotiator Rene Gonzalo Orellana Halkyer – he’s given RTCC his reaction to the main text – you can watch this below…

0915 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Just spoken to Bolivian negotiator Rene Gonzalo Orellana Halkyer again. He appears much happier with the main document (at least compared to last night) but says there are still some key issues to be discussed – notably emission targets for many countries who he says are not coming up with figures. I’ll post the video and a transcipt shortly.

0900 (GMT+2)

Text 2: Ad Hoc Working Group (AHWG) on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol at its sixteenth session.

-second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol shall begin on 1 January 2013 and end on 31 December 2017
-environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol must be preserved (whatever this means)
-aims to ensure emissions from Parties included in Annex I are reduced by at least 25-40 %below 1990 levels by 2020

…can’t find many mentions of EU here

0845 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Here’s a run-down of the key aspects of our three texts so far – starting with….

Chair’s Proposal, INDABA: THE BIGGER PICTURE: Published Friday, 9 December 2011 @ 23:00 – available at

-calls on countries to participate in an: ‘effective and appropriate international response’
-recognises the current emissions gap: between the aggregated effect of Parties mitigation pledges and predicted temperature rises
-decides to develop a Protocol or another legal instrument applicable to all Parties under UNFCCC
-framework to be completed no later than 2015 in order to adopt this legal instrument at the 21st session of the Conference of Parties
-Recognises the impact the IPCC 5th Assessment Report could have and calls on all parties to raise their ambitions

0825 (GMT+2)

Bob Ward from the LSE’s Grantham Institute has Tweeted: Just overheard Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change, say in cafe that he expects talks to go on beyond noon today. #cop17.

0815 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking And before we get back to examining last night’s texts – here’s another cracker. Apologies to the two guys asleep, but it gives a flavour of what the conference centre was looking like last night.

0810 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking If you missed it on Twitter, here’s Todd Stern at 11pm last night. Looks remarkably happy.

0800 (GMT+2)

Despite the text below clear signs that lines are still drawn in sand, with EU, Africa, India and China battling over the text. Equally developing countries – and Bolivia’s lead negotiator who spoke so eloquently about his fears to RTCC yesterday – may see the addition of a ‘legal’ element into the ‘Indaba: The Bigger Picture’ document as a bonus:

POINT 4: Decides also to launch a process to develop a Protocol or another legal instrument applicable to all Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, through a subsidiary body under the Convention hereby established and to be known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on XX.

0730 (GMT+2)

@rtcc_edking Welcome back to Durban. The sun is shining, and it’s a crisp and cool day with a gentle breeze wafting in from the Indian Ocean. We left last night just past midnight, after reports from UN sources that no decisions would be taken until Saturday morning. The UNFCCC have released three draft texts, one relating to the Kyoto Protocol, the second referring to the ‘bigger picture’ of a long-term binding deal, and the third dealing with the Green Climate Fund. You can access these drafts via

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