Fact Sheet
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Arlington, VA
November 23, 2011

The twelfth Meeting at the Leaders’ Representative level of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate was held in Crystal City, Virginia, November 17 - 18, 2011. It was attended by ministers and officials from the seventeen major economies, as well as the United Nations, with Argentina, Barbados, Ecuador, New Zealand, Singapore, and Spain also participating in the session. Algeria and Mali were also invited. Minister Mashabane, speaking for the South African Presidency, emphasized the need for a balanced package in Durban that makes operational the Cancun agreements, which many participants also highlighted.

The MEF considered the distinct but related issues of potential second period commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the form of the Cancun package through 2020, and the question of whether Durban should set forth expectations regarding, and a process and timeline towards developing, a post-2020 global approach. Regarding Kyoto, many emphasized the importance of continuing commitments beyond 2012, including in terms of public attention. “Middle ground” options were suggested regarding the legal form of such Kyoto commitments. Participants explained their need for mutual “reassurances” regarding the post-2020 period, including in relation to taking on a further Kyoto target. With respect to the period through 2020, it appeared unrealistic to change the legal form of Cancun targets and actions, but it was noted that this was a separate issue from the importance of promoting increased ambition. Concerning the post-2020 period, various elements relating to both substance and process were identified. Some were more comfortable characterizing the post-2020 period than others; also, some were more interested in beginning the process earlier than others, who preferred to wait until after the 2015 review. In general, there was significant emphasis on finding common ground in Durban and avoiding proposals that crossed other countries’ redlines.

There was general agreement that the overriding objective of transparency is not to find fault in others, but to enhance understanding of each others’ mitigation efforts to build confidence and share lessons learned. In that regard, Parties emphasized that the spirit in which IAR and ICA are conducted should be non-confrontational, non-intrusive, and respectful, and that the guidelines for the facilitative discussions under the SBI should take these principles into account. Participants felt that the guidelines for biennial reports, IAR and ICA should be agreed in Durban as part of a balanced package. There was broad agreement that reports should be submitted biennially including the information outlined in paragraph 64 of the Cancun text; these reports would be subsumed in the full national communications every four years, with separate updates in between. Some suggested that submission of first biennial reports in 2014 would constitute a key input to the 2013-15 Review. It was recognized that there is a need for provisions to allow for flexibility for other less capable developing countries, although there were diverging views on how to do this. Several Parties recognized the need to provide support to developing countries for preparation of biennial reports and that support for capacity building will also be critical.

There was strong support for making the Green Climate Fund operational as a crucial element of a balanced outcome in Durban. Many participants expressed concern about opening the draft governing instrument contained in the TC report for negotiation at the COP, while some also noted a need to find a way to resolve remaining concerns. On long-term finance, there was a broad view that both public and private finance would be needed, and that they should play a complementary role, although participants had differing views on the relative importance of each. Several countries noted the ongoing work on long-term sources in other forums, including the G20, IMO, and ICAO. A number of developed countries discussed their ongoing fast start finance programs. Participants expressed the view that there should be no gap in funding after the conclusion of the fast start period.

There was broad agreement that mitigation efforts are at the core of our collective goal of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, and noted that while Parties remain committed to the mitigation efforts pledged in Copenhagen and anchored in Cancun, there is a need for greater ambition to reach our long-term goal. There was broad agreement on the need for a practical focus on domestic implementation of the 2020 pledges. Most participants emphasized the importance of transparency and clarity to build confidence in our pledges, though views varied on how a Durban outcome could reflect this. Several suggested that a template or other structured format for clarifying pledges could be a first step toward better understanding and enhancing our efforts, recognizing the commonalities and differences in approaches. Several also raised the need for a rules-based system to ensure environmental integrity, noting the important role of markets and the need for the multilateral system to evolve to accommodate a wider range of Parties as both developed and developing countries take action. Views diverged on the effectiveness and feasibility of applying a top-down accounting system, with some saying common rules should be based on Kyoto, and some highlighting that any accounting rules would need to apply to a wider set of Parties, including both developed and some developing countries.

There was a discussion of whether it would make sense to have a permanent home for the COP rather than rotating to a different venue every year. Participants also expressed various views on the substance of proposed new COP agenda items, but all felt that the proposals should not derail the adoption of the agenda.

In closing, the Chair suggested that the Major Economies Forum consider next year its broader mission to facilitate concrete action among this group to address climate change.