NONGOVERNMENTAL organisations (NGOs) and activist groups expressed dismay yesterday at the slow progress at the United Nations (UN) climate change talks in Durban that have brought together nearly 200 nations in a bid to pull together an agreement on how to ward off damaging climate change.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has urged negotiating teams at this year's Congress of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-17), of which she is president, to finalise all but contentious political issues before ministers and heads of state arrive in Durban next week. However, teams only really got down to the nitty-gritty yesterday.

The Climate Action Network, a coalition of more than 700 NGOs in 95 countries, said it was concerning that little real work had been done.

"We need to finalise a post- 2012 framework," Oxfam's Kelly Dent said at a media briefing in the Durban International Convention Centre, where the talks are being held.

Ms Dent was referring to the Kyoto Protocol, the world's first and only legally binding deal on reducing the emission of gases linked to average global warming, the first commitment period of which ends on December 31 next year. The key divide was between nations that wanted agreement on a legally binding deal that would be operational before 2020, and those that wanted one that became operational after 2020.

World Wide Fund for Nature Central Africa representative Raymond Lumbuenamo said Africa had "for centuries" been subject to decisions made on its behalf and it would fight hard to ensure there was a decision on a Kyoto Protocol second commitment period at COP-17.

"For us a lot is riding on this," he said.

Many scientists argue Africa, which contributes least to greenhouse gas emissions, will suffer the most from global warming.

blaines@bdfm.co.za