Saturday 15. August 2020
#156 - January 2013


Doha a new disappointment


Doha Climate Change Conference has reached very poor results increasing doubts about multilateralism


The International Conferences on Climate Change have embarked along a dangerous road that does not allow great optimism for the future. The drama surrounding the staging of each summit looks to exceed the previous: last minute arrangements, scarce content and then inviting the next conference to reach agreements that have not been made in the present. To use a footballing analogy, it is like passing the ball forward without ever reaching the opponent’s goal. In further analysis this is putting multilateralism at stake —specifically the United Nations and its ability to exert real global governance.


In Doha, the EU has had a hard time regarding internal conflict and putting the reputation of its leadership on these issues in question. The problem is surrounding the issue of "hot air" —that is, the carbon credits issued under the Kyoto protocol to Eastern countries, based on their 1990 emissions. As their emissions crashed along with their inefficient industry after the fall of communism, these countries now have an excess of credits that they want to be allowed to keep and sell. Its value is quite uncertain, and clearly very small, as the market of carbon credits has soared and the European Union do not allow using them to fulfil 2020 targets of emissions reductions. But it's a question of sovereignty and Poland forced a last minute agreement—on the spot—that granted Poland the right to keep the rights and at the same time the EU guarantees that they will have no impact for other agreements.


The basic agreements reached in Doha are:


The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. The second Commitment period (the first ends in December 2012) will run from 1st January 2013 to 31st December 2020. It concerns the EU, Croatia and Iceland, and eight other Countries—including Australia, Norway and Switzerland—representing only a mere 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Countries will have to redefine their own targets of reduction before 2014. The EU is committed to reduce their emissions by 20% by 2020, compared to 1990, where countries currently emit 18.5% fewer emissions. Markets for carbon rights will remain as the intervention mechanism, although its effectiveness is dubious because the prices are deflated.


The financial assistance to developing countries to help them cope with climate change. The Doha text asks developed countries to announce new funding "when financial circumstances permit" - a statement that shows the very low engagement and recognises the gravity of the situation. They must submit "information on their strategies for mobilizing funds to reach $ 100 billion per year by 2020" to the climate conference which is to be held in Warsaw in 2013.


Repair of "loss and damage". An international mechanism will be decided to deal with the issue of “loss and damage” —irreparable damage caused by global warming in the most vulnerable countries. The United States will spend $60 billion to respond to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy within its own borders. Other countries devastated by the hurricane cannot possibly match this level of spending. However the USA has so far refused any request for an enhanced common fund to assist all countries, arguing that existing financial mechanisms are sufficient.


Towards a comprehensive and ambitious agreement in 2015. The Doha agreement reaffirms the ambition to adopt "a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreement with legal force" at the conference of the UN in 2015 for entry into force in 2020. It recalls the objective of limiting temperature increases to 2 ° C. If set, this new agreement will cover every country, although it will differentiate responsibilities. A draft text as a basis for negotiations should be available "before May 2015." Again, passing responsibility to the next meeting.


Basically, it looks like a bad play were it not for the seriousness of the issues being addressed. Whilst the recent natural calamities (Sandy, Bopha inter alia) are reminders that the effects of climate change will become more frequent and more dangerous, it makes the passive response of many governments particularly regrettable. It is not surprising therefore that there are increasing voices calling for deep changes in these types of negotiations.


José Ignacio García SJ


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