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In late November and early December of last year, some 195 national delegations met in Durban, South Africa, for the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the latest in a series of international negotiations intended to address the threat of global climate change due to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHSs) in the atmosphere, largely a consequence of the worldwide combustion of fossil fuels, as well as ongoing deforestation. Any assessment of the Durban climate negotiations needs to take note of the three major outcomes from the negotiations: (1) elaboration on several components of the Cancun Agreements; (2) a second five-year commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol; and (3) a non-binding agreement to reach an agreement by 2015 that will bring all countries under the same legal regime by 2020. This package–in total–represents something of a “half-full glass of water,” that is, an outcome that can be judged successful or not, depending upon one’s perspective. But an unambiguous outcome of the Durban talks is the fact that third element–the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”–has opened an important window. To explain why I say this requires a brief review of some key points from twenty years of history of international climate negotiations.


Stavins, Robert N. "International Climate Policy: The Durban Platform Opens a Window." Oxford University Press’s Blog, January 24, 2012.