Durban UN climate talks open to calls from African and world leaders for solutions

The latest round of the UN climate negotiations opened on this balmy spring morning in the beach-side city of Durban, South Africa with strong affirmations of the urgent need to address climate change.

South African President Zuma addressed the opening session of the UN climate negotiations today in Durban.

In a series of powerful statements at the opening "plenary” at the conference of nearly 200 countries and almost 20,000 delegates, speakers expressed need for quick  and effective action on climate change, concern for their countries’ ability to adapt to climate change, and hope for what the next two weeks in Durban could accomplish.

Last year’s president of the conference, host country Mexico’s Patricia Espinosa, highlighted the successes of the 2010 negotiations in Cancun but cautioned “there is still certainly more to do.”  Then the conference presidency was  turned over to South Africa’s Minister of International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who said “countries must find a common solution to secure the future for generations to come.”

Two speakers from African nations told of the severe consequences climate change was bringing to their home countries, and said Africa must play a significant role in these negotiations. UN Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres received loud applause when she opened her speech with a Zulu welcome; and South Africa’s President Zuma, concluded the session, thanking the UN for its confidence in Africa’s hosting the conference, and declaring climate change as not just an environmental challenge, but a holistic development challenge.

Jennifer Haverkamp, EDF's international climate program director said in a statement at the opening of the conference that “the world can’t just “sit back and do nothing.

We need to build on the efforts of individual countries and regions so that every nation does their part to reduce the emissions that are harming our way of life.

Environmental Defense Fund is urging the climate conference to move forward in four key areas:

  1. A negotiating work plan with concrete goals for the next two years and a clear path toward a comprehensive, binding agreement.
  1. Agreements on financing arrangements for the Green Climate Fund, which will be dedicated to helping developing countries address and adapt to climate change.
  1. Positive signals to the carbon market that there’s life after Durban, encouraging more countries to follow Europe, New Zealand, and most recently Australia’s lead in setting a domestic carbon price.
  1. Accounting rules for measuring emissions from land-use change and forestry that accurately determine whether countries have reduced their emissions and met their obligations.

Read more in our statement and comprehensive blog post on Durban expectations: Durban UN climate talks could see modest, incremental progress; What to watch at COP-17.

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