Did Durban deliver?

COP17 blog 3WAGGGS youth delegations at past annual UN climate change conferences have witnessed the failure in 2009 that resulted in the Copenhagen accord, and the new energy coming from the Cancun agreements in 2010.

But we are now faced with another document named after its point of origin, the Durban package. Did the WAGGGS delegation at COP 17 get the fair, ambitious and binding (FAB) deal that they were asking for?

Well, not really, but there is still hope. The Durban package saved the climate talks, but didn't save the climate – yet. So what does this package have to offer?

It was tied in the very last seconds before the negotiations would have been forced to break up without results, 1.5 days after COP17 was scheduled to end. One negotiator began his statement during those final hours with "I need to catch my plane in 30 minutes", which reflected the urgency that had gripped the room.

It was an urgency which could have been injected into the talks by hosting country South Africa a lot earlier, and which led to a host of last-minute compromises that ensured a way forward but didn't go far enough.

Saving the Kyoto Protocol was one of the main aims of civil society at COP17. The Durban package offers a road map for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with quantifiable emission reduction targets, due to be confirmed in May 2012.

While India and China showed some last-minute flexibility, it was clear that other major polluters such as the USA, Canada, Japan and Russia will not join this agreement. Unfortunately, this new and somewhat legally binding agreement is not to be implemented until 2020.

Unless ambition increases drastically, this new road map set out in the Durban package could potentially lock us onto a pathway to dangerous climate change to the tune of 3.5 degrees, as opposed to the 2 degrees currently aimed for and the 1.5 degrees many claim is necessary for a safe climate future.

This is where the newly established Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-DPEA) comes in. According to the Durban Package, a review set to take place from 2013 to 2015 will inform a work plan to raise that ambition.

COP17 blog1The other major topic at COP17 was securing funding for climate action. The Durban package clarifies the modalities for the new Global Climate Fund but unfortunately fails to mention where the money will come from, other than the pledges already made by Norway and Germany.

The package mentions the gap between set emission targets and what scientists say actually needs to be achieved, but fails to address this by — for example — closing some dangerous loopholes related to land use, deforestation and reforestation.

During those last hours in Durban it was good to see the EU leadership under Connie Hedegaard, who used to be the International Commissioner for the Danish Green Girl Guides. The EU issued a game changing statement together with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and called for firm commitment and ambitious targets under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

It was also great to see that civil society — including the WAGGGS delegation — played an important role as influencers in the negotiations. Their bold protest actions changed the tone of the negotiations substantially. For example, the "where is the leadership" twitter storm added pressure on the EU before it came out to stand firm with LDCs and AOSIS.

The "occupy COP17" protest saw some negotiators, including the Maldivian minister, and civil society stand firmly side by side to demand action. Following this rally, several hardliners opened their position to seek compromise at the very last second.

What's WAGGGS got to do with it?

WAGGGS' youth delegation left a mark at the COP — the delegates' huge visibility as practitioners in the field and change agents in policy and programming is reflected in numerous interviews, direct interventions at the negotiations, panel addresses and — last but not least — the fact that they were invited to open the negotiations on implementation of climate change action with their climate change awareness Cha Cha Slide.

The chair of this meeting, Robert Owen Jones, said he hoped the WAGGGS opening would put negotiators in the mood for action and Christiana Figueres, head of the UNFCCC secretariat, thanked the youth delegates for providing this inspiration. The outcome of said plenary session included the closure of the second capacity building review to start its implementation with a special mentioning of the role of youth and gender — one of WAGGGS' lobbying goals for COP17 that we could tick off our list.

COP 17 blog2The WAGGGS delegation also left a mark in the Durban package, focusing on the part of the negotiations that related the most to WAGGGS core topics — the role of girls and young women and non-formal education.

A group of youth delegates focused specifically on capacity building and managed — through passionate addresses during the informal negotiations, targeted lobbying papers, informal talks with negotiators and working in alliance with other youth — to include a paragraph on the role of youth and gender in the decision to install the Durban forum for in-depth discussion on capacity building.

The first Durban forum is due to take place in early 2012 and will bring together experts and practitioners, including youth, to share best practice on capacity building, such as non-formal climate change education.

Another group of WAGGGS youth delegates focussed on supporting gender in the negotiation text. Together with other youth and gender activists they achieved an increase in gender references throughout the Durban package and other relevant outcome documents, which is an important step forward to achieve climate justice on an equal basis. Notably, the ever growing youth and gender working group that WAGGGS founded a couple of years ago managed to increase collaboration with fellow NGO representatives and country negotiators alike.

At the same time as influencing policies, the WAGGGS delegates lived up to our mission as educational organization. A third group of WAGGGS youth delegates designed and ran a global awareness raising campaign on climate change. The entire delegation led the climate Cha Cha in Durban which is a fun way to educate young people about simple ways to help preserve the environment and called upon fellow youth around the world to join in and make this a global effort. Many Girl Guides and Girl Scouts followed this call to action.

With this action, WAGGGS addresses one huge problem related to climate change: a large part of the world's population is not fully aware of this threat and does not know how to take action to tackle climate change. We are addressing this awareness gap through non-formal education, starting by those with the greatest need for empowerment and biggest potential to become change agents – girls and young women.

What will WAGGGS do next?

The next step in our fight for climate justice will be the UN Earth Summit in Rio, Brazil, in June 2012. A WAGGGS youth delegation will be present to ensure that the voice of girls and young women will be heard at this major summit on sustainable development which focuses greatly on ensuring environmental sustainability — the subject of WAGGGS MDG programme "we can save our planet" since its implementation in 2006. Interested WAGGGS members can soon download the applications to become part of the delegation.

From January to March 2012, WAGGGS will run a consultation with children and young people around the world to find out what about their hopes and fears for the future of our planet. The results will inform WAGGGS' position at the UN Earth Summit in Rio.

The topic of World Thinking Day 2012 is 'we can save our planet'. On www.worldthinkingday.org is a fun educational package that teaches children and young people how to protect and preserve the environment. Earn your badge now and don't forget to add your actions to the action counter.