Climate Negotiations Week 1 – Taking Stock

Saving the Kyoto Protocol?

At today’s Stocktaking Plenary here at COP18, taking stock of the week, one positive emerging out of the gloom is that there’s likely to be a 2nd Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol, here at Doha.  This is a good sign, and developing countries have noted that we should not lose the progress achieved in Kyoto. However the pledges under the KP are extremely weak. The EU, for instance, has pledged to reduce by 20% by 2020, but has already reached 18%.  

There is also concern that non-Kyoto Parties, without pledges, are pushing for participation in market mechanisms. Since market mechanisms were supposed to be an incentive to take on emission reductions, this would remove the incentive. Bolivia, a critic of market mechanisms, said in the plenary today: “Some countries are more interested in the means, not the ends”.  

Venezuela said:  “we see only a market mechanism that will enrich the rich countries” with “nothing for environmental integrity or reducing emissions”.

Finance and Long-term Cooperation Action (LCA)

In these issues of great importance, it was clear from the Chair’s summary there was little progress on adaptationor finance, but some progress on mitigation. However the talks were “still lacking a textual basis” meaning no text had been adopted to discuss.

Venezuela’s summary was that we have “nothing on finance, nothing on adaptation, and nothing on technology transfer”.  One of the most serious issues under this track is that there is a huge, gaping hole in climate finance between now and 2020.  In fact, developed country parties have made no mid-term commitments on finance.

Nicaragua highlighted that we are at a “critical juncture in the history of our planet” and this must NOT be the “lost decade for climate finance”.

Finance for adaptation and mitigation is one of the most critical issues; essential for building trust.   Nauru, representing the small island states, argued that finance was missing at Durban, and “success can only be achieved with an ambitious outcome on finance”.  

The LCA track expires this month, but countries are concerned the track should not be closed until the critical issues, such as finance, find a place in the other tracks.

Finance is especially key for countries already suffering the loss and damage from climate change.  Bangladesh is extremely concerned that there has been resistance even to a non-specific mechanism on loss and damage.

Durban Platform – All in the same boat

Nauru argued that the Durban Platform (ADP) did not include the “workplan on enhancing pre-2020 ambition” –this was completely missing from the text. Progress seems to have been extremely slow.

The problem comes down to one of power and equity. Developing countries are the ones suffering the most, but can they compel rich countries, with only moral arguments, to take effective action?

Power also leads to inequalities in participation and delegation size too. This was mentioned today in the plenary by Swaziland (representing the Africa Group) who noted that the subsidiary body (SBSTA) was “done in the early hours on Friday night, and small delegations like from my group extend beyond our capabilities and have less representation from our group”.

Countries must realise that we are all in the same boat.  As eminent economist Dr Ahmed of Bangladesh noted in a side event today, we need to recognise that “if one side of the boat goes down, the other side of the boat will go down too”.

Overall, as we hurtle towards warming of 3 or 4 degrees, and with CO2 levels at the highest level they have been for 800,000 years, some amount of warming is now inevitable. While countries still squabble and place conditions on action, Nicaragua argued the 2 degree target is “practically lost”.

We do not know where we are heading.

Nauru, representing the small islands, said the Plenary was a “sobering assessment” because “across all tracks we do not see urgency and we do not see ambition”.