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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
OP-ED

Politics Of Climate Change

Doha climate talks end with weak outcome

Photo: AFP

The Eighte-enth Conference of parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended 24 hours over time on December 8 in Doha, Qatar with the adoption of the "Doha Climate Gateway." Even though the package consisted of decisions which were of very low ambition on several key issues some countries, including Russia and Ukraine, tried to stop their adoption and the Qatari President of the COP had to force it through despite their objections. The compromise package emerged after 36 hours of non-stop negotiations at ministerial level on the three critical issues being discussed in Doha.

The first was the continuation if the Kyoto Protocol beyond the end of its first commitment at the end of December 2012. This was indeed achieved, but only by a few of the original Kyoto Parties and that also at a relatively low level of ambition. However, this agreement opens the way to negotiating a much more ambitious mitigation agreement including all countries by 2015.

The second key issue was the amount of funding to be provided to developing countries to tackle climate change (both for mitigation as well as adaptation) between 2013 and 2020. The developed countries had promised to provide up to $100 billion a year from 2020 onwards and had also promised (and to some extent delivered) $30 billion over three years (2010, 2011 and 2012) but had not promised any concrete amounts between 2013 and 2020.

The developing countries had demanded $60 billion over the next three years (2013 to 2015) but only a few countries (including the European Union) actually promised anything concrete while others gave some vague promises without any figures. This was perhaps the most disappointing failure of the Doha package.

The third issue can be called a victory of sorts for the developing countries, especially the small island states and the least developed countries (LDC), namely the agreement to consider setting up an "international mechanism for loss and damage" which opens up the door to potential claims for compensation in future. This item was fiercely resisted by the developed countries, particularly the United States, who wanted to kill the loss and damage negotiating track in Doha (their argument being that it should be dealt with under the existing negotiating track on adaptation). However, after two nights of continuous negotiations at the ministerial level, where the island countries and LDCs said that they were prepared to leave Doha with nothing if they did not get loss and damage included, the developed countries were forced to concede and compromise.

Besides the three critical issues mentioned above progress was also made on a few less controversial (but nevertheless important) issues, including the National Adaptation Plans (NAP) which will now be developed by all developing countries including the LDCs. Agreement was also reached on implementing reductions in emissions from degradation and deforestation (REDD). The new Technology Centre was also agreed to be set up by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

One other critical topic that was agreed to be discussed is the issue of equity and particularly the application of the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" in determining the level of mitigation actions by all countries in the next agreement in 2015.

Bangladesh's role:
Bangladesh had a relatively large delegation consisting of government officials, experts, NGOs, members of parliament and journalists under the leadership of the minister of environment and forests. Bangladeshi negotiators have over the years developed considerable knowledge and skills in different negotiating issues and several of them represent the LDC Group or the Developing Countries group on important negotiating tracks. They also held a number of press conferences and side events to highlight Bangladesh's own actions in tackling climate change.

Doha also marked the end of the tenure of Gambia as Chair of the LDC Group and the handing over to Nepal as the incoming Chair for the next two years.

Conclusion:
The best thing that can be said about the Doha outcome is that it did not end in complete collapse (which it almost did) and keeps the show on the road towards a potentially more ambitious agreement at COP21 in 2015 (possibly to be held in Paris, France). However, there are many more tough negotiations to be done between now and 2015 to raise the level of ambition from all countries to increase their levels of mitigation if the temperature increase is to be kept below 2 degrees as it is now headed toward 4 degrees.

The writer is Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh and Senior Fellow at the London based International Institute for Environment and Development.

E-mail: Saleemul.huq@iied.org

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