Doha dithers on equity

Citizen pressure is mounting in many nations, demanding that wealthy governments led by the U.S. cut carbon emissions. Photo: AP

Citizen pressure is mounting in many nations, demanding that wealthy governments led by the U.S. cut carbon emissions. Photo: AP  

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) times the release of its provisional annual statement with the U.N. climate negotiations. This year, it dwelt on the Atlantic Basin experiencing an above-average hurricane season for a third consecutive year, with 19 storms, 10 of them achieving hurricane status, the most notable being Sandy. East Asia was severely impacted by powerful typhoons, with Sanba being the strongest in 2012, causing destruction in parts of the Philippines, Japan, and the Korean peninsula. The years 2001–2011 were all among the warmest on record and the WMO’s statement highlighted the unprecedented melting of the Arctic Sea ice and multiple weather and climate extremes.

The WMO’s statement fell on deaf ears at the Doha climate talks. As 194 countries dragged on with negotiations, typhoon Bhopa was wrecking the eastern part of the Philippines. A new policy paper by Nicholas Stern and others from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, says the overall pace of change is recklessly slow. “We are acting as if change is too difficult and costly and delay is not a problem.”

Almost endorsing this, there was a distinct lack of urgency at the Doha talks. Inside meeting rooms, negotiators and developing countries battled to hold on to what the climate talks had delivered in the last 20 years or so. But the ground was slipping away fast. And at the end of it, the basic principles of equity and responsibility for historical emissions were threatened. The U.S., along with Japan, objected to the equity principle under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and also to equity being the basis of future negotiations.

While the Durban platform clung on to the principles of equity as enshrined under the UNFCCC, the U.S. made it clear that it was not going to accept it. The climate talks have delivered less and less since Bali where the two-track approach was mainly geared to bringing on board the U.S, which is not part of the Kyoto Protocol. Finances, adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer were the key issues under the Bali Roadmap. India, part of the G-77 group, plus China had to object vociferously to the removal of the key pillars of the talks from the Long-term Cooperative Action plan. A Philippine delegate quipped that this was meant to be a paperless conference, not a “textless” one.

In the end after a day’s delay, the Doha Climate Gateway kept the multilateral process alive but gave little in terms of finance or ambitious emission cuts. India, not too happy with the results, managed, along with G-77 plus China, to ensure that equity was the mainstay. The head of the Indian delegation, Mira Mehrishi, reiterated India’s firm commitment to the principles of equity and the need for adequate funding for the developing countries to address climate change impacts. She said the notion of equity was rooted in historical responsibility. While the U.S. has been consistently opposed to this, its climate envoy Todd Stern, in a sudden U-turn, spoke fondly of equity in an address to the high-level segment. As talks ended, it was evident that Mr. Stern’s idea of equity and common, but differentiated, responsibility was different from the rest of the world.

China stress on funds

Finance is the core issue, as Chinese delegation head Xie Zhenua kept emphasising during the talks. But the Doha Gateway only urges the developed countries to scale up finance to reach $100 billion a year by 2020 and submit plans by the next round of talks in Poland. There also seems to be a complete lack of ambition in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which is now eight years. Sunita Narain, director-general of the Centre for Science and Environment, adds: “Doha failed because the world agreed not to raise its level of ambition. It was agreed in Bali in 2007 that the industrialised world needed to cut 45 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2020 to facilitate a temperature increase cap of 1.5-2° C which is considered as safe levels.”

The issue of carrying forward surplus emissions was strongly objected to by Russia, which was unhappy with the proposal under the Kyoto Protocol to cramp the carry-over of carbon credits or surplus allowances which it had accumulated during the Protocol’s first commitment period. Money supply for the Adaptation Fund suffered due to the decline in the market prices of certified emission reduction, and as a result, $301.1 million was collected.

With funds dwindling, countries lobbied for a mechanism on ‘loss and damage’ since Cancun which finally was agreed upon at Doha. Crumbs are doled out as global temperatures rise and the poorest countries face disaster.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 2:20:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/Doha-dithers-on-equity/article12449445.ece

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