Doha event is not going to save world from climate change impact, it has at best managed to keep negotiations alive

 Gas-to-liquid (GTL) diesel buses with the posters “Share the ride, cut the carbon” ferried delegates to the massive Qatar National Convention Centre, where talks concluded last Saturday with a Doha Climate Gateway. Large screens would boast scores of trees (250 or more) and reams of paper (over 2,00,000 sheets) were saved thanks to this “paperless” meeting. But the Doha Climate Gateway is not going to save the world from the impacts of climate change, it has only managed to keep a tedious process of negotiations alive with a faint glimmer of hope.

While most countries agreed to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries, led by the U.S., manoeuvred the world into adopting the Gateway with no commitment on their part to cut emissions or put money on the table.  Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Russia walked away from the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, following the U.S.

New commitment period

Conférence of Parties (COP) 18 president Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said the Doha Climate Gateway marked the beginning of discussions on a universal, legally-binding international agreement on emission reductions, which should be ratified in 2015 and should come into force in 2020. The organisers maintained that governments had taken the next essential step in the global response to climate change. Countries launched a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, agreed on a firm time table to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015 and a path to raise ambition to respond to climate change.

They also endorsed the completion of new institutions and agreed upon ways and means to deliver scaled-up climate finance and technology to developing countries.

“Doha has opened up a new gateway to bigger ambition and to greater action,” said Mr. Al-Attiyah. 

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Doha is another step in the right direction, but we still have a long road ahead. The door to stay below two degrees remains barely open.” She said the Doha agreement was a bridge between the original Kyoto Protocol, which was drawn up in 1997 and which expires at the end of this year, and the next protocol, which was agreed to in principle in Durban (the Durban platform) last year and is due to be signed in 2015. In Doha, she said, all countries had agreed to produce a document detailing their reduced carbon emissions six months in advance of the 2015 COP.

The climate talks were attended by 194 countries with 16,000 participants. The work that began in Bali in 2007 on the long-term cooperative action and extension to the Kyoto Protocol was concluded but real commitments were missing.

The U.N. climate talks failed to deliver increased cuts in carbon pollution, nor did they provide any credible pathway to $100 billion per year in finance by 2020 to help the poorest countries deal with climate change, according to the 700 NGOs who are members of Climate Action Network-International (CAN-I).

  While the Doha talks were supposed to lead to a binding deal in 2015 to cut emissions, countries like the U.S. battled on the issue of equity and the polluters pay principle.  The whole attempt was to get developing countries to commit themselves to reducing emissions as well and go against the principles of equity.  

“It’s betrayal”

In a statement, Tim Gore, International Climate Change Policy Adviser for Oxfam, said Doha had done nothing to guarantee that public climate finance would go up next year, and not go down. “Developing countries have come here in good faith and have been forced to accept vague words and no numbers,” Mr. Gore said. “It’s a betrayal.” 

 The Gateway has failed to come up with any commitment on midterm finance for the Green Climate Fund or any specified amount of finance. There is an eight-year second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with loopholes that allow carry over, use and trading of hot air, say NGOs.

The developing countries did manage to push through a work programme on loss and damage and a decision to establish something on the lines of an international mechanism for loss and damage by the next climate talks in end-2013, which the U.S. is resisting.  

“The blame for the disaster in Doha can be laid squarely at the door of countries like the U.S.A. which have blocked and bullied those who are serious about tackling climate change,” says Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth International.

‘Hot air’ Kyoto credits

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, in a statement, said: “The talks in Doha were always going to be a modest affair, but they failed to live up to even the historically low expectations. “The pace of progress is glacial. This time Europe, usually seen as a leader on climate change, comes away with dirty hands. Due to a collective failure of political courage, European governments chose to take the side of Poland, which demanded the right to keep ‘hot air’ Kyoto credits awarded to them in the 1990s. Europe also refused to go beyond a 20 per cent target, which would barely decrease them emissions from today’s levels.”

Typhoon Bhopa

 The Philippines witnessed its 16 extreme climate event during the conference and typhoon Bhopa devastated parts of the country which had not seen such destruction for 40 years. While the world negotiates year after year, it has failed to get developed countries to accept their historical responsibility. Instead of commitments, there is a gateway for the developed nations to resist action.