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Doha, a Process Win that Won't Solve Climate Change

"Speak Your Mind - Sat, 8 Dec 2012 23:59 GMT
Author: Linh Do
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Developing countries fear that the latest climate change agreement could be just another empty promise. 

Climate change negotiations have concluded in Doha, Qatar as the ‘Doha Gateway’ was passed within minutes and with much confusion. The outcome represents a historic shift with the introduction of “loss and damage” into the agreement, but will do little to actually limit warming to 1.5 degrees. 

What looked like chaos to the casual observer has been described as “an amazing feat of environmental diplomacy.” 

The G77, European Union and Like Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) came together in a coordinated strategic move. The Verb has learnt that the Philippines, who led the newly formed LMDC group, were primarily responsible for tonight’s events. 

“Essentially everyone but Russia met up to decide what we were going to do and the decision was to pass everything quickly so they couldn’t say anything.”

Russia was noticeably annoyed at this tactic; banging their placard on the table.

This somewhat unexpected outcome has caused confusion within the NGO community which is unsure how to describe what happened tonight. 

Iain Keith from Avaaz described COP18 as a “process win” with a “recipe for the next two years.” Jennifer Morgan from the World Resources Institutes agrees saying that: “It wasn’t pretty but, results were crucial and now we need to build political will to increase ambition.” Whereas Oxfam’s Tim Gore is calling Doha a “betrayal of developing countries who did not cause this problem.” 

Finance discussions have marked a historic shift on the environmental principles underwriting these negotiations. The introduction of “loss and damage” is crucial as it is the formal acknowledgement from developed countries about their role in causing climate change. Through this new language, developed countries will compensate developing countries for climate change damage. Large issues remain around where the money will come from and how it will be distributed. According to The Verb’s sources, this “suits America and other developed countries just fine because there are no details to this empty promise.” 

Empty promises are high on everybody’s minds. Last year, through the Durban Platform, developed countries pledged $100 billion per annum by 2020 to developing countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Doha didn’t see any tangible progress beyond countries being “encouraged” to commit. 

Good news did come, with Australia, the EU and Norway publicly stating that they would not buy emission surpluses - otherwise known as “hot air” - from eastern European countries in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. 

Most governments have described Doha as being a “modest” success with the extension of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020, despite the lack of increased ambition. COP President Al-Attiyah half-jokingly said: “I tried to make you all smile [with the outcome] but, I can’t do that for everyone.”

Concerns were raised by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, who was oddly barely visible, that the level of ambition did not match the science. “The science looks at it the way the atmosphere sees it, and the atmosphere sees this as a very urgent issue.”

Despite the Qatari leadership being lambasted this past fortnight, Wael Haidman of the Climate Action Network has said: “Having this conference here was important in bringing the issue of climate change to the Gulf.” As a geographical region more typically associated with oil, as evidenced by the conference centre having also hosted the Qatar Petroleum Conference last year, COP18 has spurred some action in the renewable energies sector and with the civil society.

In the lead up to COP18, the Qatari government worked with Doha Oasis in the creation of the Qatar Sustainability Network to educate the public about climate change, with the most effective activity being a climate change themed sermon delivered in 150 public mosques. Government officials have also confirmed that following the first environmental march earlier this month, it is likely to allow for other similar civil society events. 

As delegates head back to their respective countries, a day later than originally anticipated, many will be questioning the role of the UNFCCC in solving climate change. Warsaw, Poland has been named the host of COP19 in 2013. This is the second time that Poland will host a UN climate change conference. Similar to Doha, it is an interesting choice of location given their infamous reputation of being a laggard on climate change within the EU and international community.


Linh Do is the editor of The Verb, a newswire service that focuses on telling the stories that matter.

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