Protestors at the Durban conference

12 December 2011 –The Durban climate talks agreement leaves gaps in emissions, finance and legal issues warns the Australian Greens, and the Australian Conservation Foundation agrees countries need to be more ambitious in cutting emissions.

But The Climate Institute backed Australia’s Federal Minister Greg Combet who has described the outcomes from the climate conference in South Africa as real progress.

“Countries agreed to the establishment of the Green Climate Fund and a work plan to unlock billions of dollars of additional investment for clean energy and adaptation in the world’s poorest nations,” The Climate Institute deputy chief executive officer, Erwin Jackson said.

“For the first time, all major greenhouse gas emitters will be negotiating as equal partners towards a legal agreement by 2015,” said

However, Australian Greens deputy leader, Senator Christine Milne, slammed the “wishy-washy” agreement.

She said: “The world is now on track to exceed two degrees of warming under this agreement. No matter how much nuancing of the words is done, the fact is the political reality does not match the scientific reality.

“There were three gaps to be filled at this conference –  a legal gap, a finance gap and an emissions gap. The emissions gap has, if anything, worsened. The finance gap has been given a framework but no mechanism to fill it. The legal gap remains, with a political agreement, not a binding instrument.

“The size 6 to 11 giga tonne gap between emissions cuts countries have pledged and what is needed to meet their own 2C agreement remains.

“Australian negotiators, backing up the USA, Canada and New Zealand, played a negative role, ensuring that proposed text to drive greater ambition and deeper cuts was taken off the table.

Senator Milne accused Climate Change Minister Greg Combet  of “knowing full well that the commitment he has signed up to constrain warming to no more than 2C will be breached under this agreement and he needs to explain to the Australian community why he did not back the EU and Least Developed Countries’ efforts to lift ambition.

“A second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol has been agreed, but there is no decision on timeframe. Australia refused to even put its agreed target into the second commitment period agreement and worked overtime to undermine the integrity of the rules so that the agreement will be full of loopholes.

“Australia worked to get an administrative framework for the Green Climate Fund, but did not support mechanisms such as a bunker fuel or financial transaction tax that would have put money into it,” she said.

“This empty sheet will leave developing nations even more bitter about the bad faith negotiation of rich countries.”

But Mr Combet believes the outcomes “will complement Australia’s carbon price mechanism by boosting confidence in global mitigation efforts, providing a sound basis for investment in clean energy and stimulating growth in carbon markets. “

Durban had delivered on each of the Australian government’s three main objectives, he said.

Left to right, Christiana Figueres, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and incoming COP 17 president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

Building on emissions reduction pledges made at last year’s UN conference in Cancun; taking the next steps towards a legal framework to cover all major emitters and promoting market mechanisms to cut emissions in the lowest cost.

The chief executive officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Don Henry said the agreement would advance action on climate but require strengthening over time.

“While Durban has moved global climate action forward the world is in a race against time to avoid dangerous climate change and all countries need to be more ambitious in cutting emissions, and this needs to be a focus of the international effort now,” he said.

Mr Henry said the Green Climate Fund would help developing nations foster low-carbon economies and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“The $243 billion invested in clean technology in 2010 globally demonstrates that momentum is building, however stronger action is needed,” he said.