Covering the UN Climate Change Conference COP17 in Durban

27 Nov

Three African journalists at the COP16 in Mexico, (from left to right, Winnie Onyimbo from Kenya and Ugochi Anyaka and Jennifer Igwe from Nigeria) interviewed Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, the World Bank manager for environment and natural resources for Africa. Photo by Andrew C. Revkin


What is the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol?

Where does the political action take place?

Who meets where?

Who keeps an eye on things?

Who speaks out?

What are essential tools for reporting?

The UNFCCC-What is it?

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:

There are 195 Parties (194 countries + EU) which equals near universal membership

The ultimate objective of the Convention:

 ..stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system..(Art. 2)

…. annual meetings of all Parties at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to take decisions

 The Kyoto Protocol -What is it?

192 countries + EU, Commitment period: 2008 – 2012

Main features

  • Legally binding targets for emissions of greenhouse gases in industrialized countries during first commitment period
  • Reduction of about 5% at the end of 2012
  • New international market-based instruments creating a new commodity: carbon (emissions trading, CDM)
  • Valuable architecture, but scope not commensurate with the scale of the problem

Further important agreements you’ll hear a lot about:

  • Cancun Agreements 2010
  • Bali Action Plan/Bali Road Map2007
  • Agreement on long-term finance of 100 billion USD by 2020
  • Agreement on fast start finance of 10 billion USD annually through 2012
  • Agreement on Measurable, Reportable, Verifiable (MRV) actions


  • COP (Conference of the Parties .194 countries + EU)
  • COP/CMP (COP serving as meeting to the Kyoto Protocol -192 countries +EU)
  • AWG-LCA (Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention, founded 2007, 195 Parties)
  • AWG-KP(Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol ,founded 2005, 193 Parties)
  • SBSTA (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice)
  • SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation)

This hall won't be recognised in a few hours. Will be super busy!!!!


  •  GREEN CLIMATE FUND –  A tool to finance climate change action, both adaptation and mitigation, in developing countries
  • Technology Mechanisms – with Technology Committee and Climate Technology Centre .technology for mitigation and adaptation
  •  Adaptation Framework + Committee – to coordinate adaptation action in developing countries


Annex 1

  • G77 and China (135 countries) Presidency in 2011: Argentina
  • African Group (53 countries)
  • LDCs (Least Developed Countries) 49 countries
  • AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States, 43 countries
  • ALBA group: Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua

Non-Annex 1

  • Umbrella group: US, Russia, Ukraine Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia
  • EU: European Union, 27 countries
  • Environmental Integrity Group: Switzerland + Mexico and South Korea (both OECD)

 Who keeps an eye on things and watches closely on behalf of the public?  (CIVIL SOCIETY AND OBSERVERS)

  • Around 1400 Groups accredited to the UNFCCC
  • Engos (environmental NGOs), Ringos (religious international NGOs), Bingos(business international NGOs), Indigenous Peoples, Youngos (youth NGO’s), trade unions, faith groups, UN agencies
  • Make up around 50%of all participants
  • Play very important role as observers and experts .but governments decide

Who meets where and what is accessible?

  • Opening ceremonies and plenary (open via CCTV, for pool)
  • Side events, > 200 (open)
  • Happenings (e.g. fossil of the day award)
  • Contact groups (not open)
  • Meetings, including bilateral (not open)


  •  UNFCCC Executive Secretary
  • South African COP Presidency
  • Delegations: EU, USA,G77 and China, African Group etc.
  • CAN (>500 NGOs) and other NGOs
  • UN orgs: WMO, IPCC, UNDP, UNEP etc

 What are the highlights? 


  •  28 November: Grand opening, from 10:00 a.m.
  • 4-6 December; Business events (WEF, WBCSD, UNFCCC)
  • 6 December (p.m.): opening of High Level Segment with UNSG, more than 100 Ministers, all of whom give speeches
  • 9/10 Dec: Closing plenary: sleepless in Durban!

Key documents

  • (Draft) decisions (on UNFCCC web site, at documents counter)
  • Declarations/ Resolutions
  • National speeches (~150)
  •  Press releases
  • Fact sheets and publications


  • CCTV Monitors
  •  Daily programme (UNFCCC)
  • Website <>, with live web cast
  • iPhoneapp .COP 16 Navigator.
  • Announcements
  • Publication ECO (Climate Action Network)
  • Environmental News Bulletin (IISD)

Who can help me?


General press account: bookings in media for UN agencies apart from UNFCCC: Dan Shepard, Media counter at the COP

Security.Access to the extraterritorial zone will be controlled by the UN.Valid badges with photo and bar codes are necessary to access the Conference Premises (PIF)

This great piece was shared by John Hay Media Relations Officer, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat at the Pre-COP17 media training in Pretoria. Thought to share with fellow journalists who were not at the training.

Remember, a lot will be happening. Pick subjects you are interested in and would benefit you audience and country, then focus on them. Don’t get drowned in all the happenings(I suffered that in COP16), don’t try to cover it all, because you just cannot. You would end up achieving little and feeling extremely frustrated. But most importantly, try to put a human face to your stories. Amplify the voices and concerns of the most affected.

It’s raining right now as I type. So prepare for some rain and plenty of sun too.

Wishing you the best, and please send in your stories to Eco-Nigeria. Would be so useful.


2 Responses to “Covering the UN Climate Change Conference COP17 in Durban”

  1. Jeff Rutherford November 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Hi Ugochi,

    Are you in Durban? I hope so!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: