Every year the United Nations holds international negotiations on climate change, called the Conference of the Parties, or COP. In 2011, COP 17 was held in Durban, South Africa.
The 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Durban, South Africa from November 28th to December 11th, 2011.
The Durban conference, which was also the venue for the 7th Session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 7) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, followed COP 16 in Cancun. In Cancun, countries established a key climate financing funds and to enhanced technology transfer. However, no agreement was reached on how to extend the Kyoto Protocol. One of the chief aims of COP 17 in Durban was to establish a new treaty to limit carbon emissions.
Canada’s position going into the conference:
As in previous years, the Canadian federal government showed little to no commitment to the climate file in the lead-up to the conference. Canada stood out as the only country in the world to have weakened its emissions targets after returning from COP 15 in Copenhagen, and the only country to have signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol and then say it had no intention of meeting its targets. The federal government was also responsible for shelving the only major federal renewable energy program in the country while putting over $1 billion dollars a year of subsidies into the oil sector.
Results of the Durban conference:
The Canadian government made headlines and earned criticism from the international community in Durban for refusing to sign onto a second Kyoto commitment period, calling critical climate financing “guilt payments,” and bullying least developed countries into leaving the Kyoto Protocol. Two days after the close of the Durban conference, on December 13, 2011, Canada became the first signatory to announce its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Canada remains the only country in the world to have withdrawn from the legally binding international accord after having first signed it.
Ultimately, the objective of establishing a new treaty to limit carbon emissions was not successful at Durban. However, countries nevertheless agreed to establish a new legally binding climate deal for all countries by 2015. Further, a special work stream was created at Durban to support enhanced action on climate change.