Climate talks adopt a weak second Kyoto Protocol: India supports despite disagreements

After a 24 hour delay, delegates from more than 194 nations finally reached an agreement on a package of decisions dubbed the Durban Climate Gateway, thereby extending the Kyoto Protocol (KP),  in Doha, bringing COP18  to a bitter end.

This ‘agreement’ was reached after closed-door meetings and huddles with parties. The President gaveled the agreements into being without opening the floor for discussions and disagreements, which many feared could have led to chaos and stalling.

The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will last for 8 years and the work plan towards a new global treaty in 2020 was secured. The Long Term Cooperative Action (LCA) track was closed, as planned in Durban last year.

But the collective impact of these decisions on reducing actual emissions to the atmosphere and impact of climate change remained bare minimum.

Several developed countries have opted to be part of the Protocol while withholding commitments. Those that have committed  have limited it to the lowest possible pledge.  Kyoto Protocol pledges are made through assigned amount units (AAUs), assigned units of carbon space. The contentious issue of carry over of carbon credits has been resolved with loopholes. Countries like Australia, EU, Liechtenstein, Japan, Monaco and Switzerland  forfeited this right till the end of the second commitment period of the KP in 2020, but can choose to use these carbon credits then. Given the ineffectively low pledges made by these countries, it really was the least expected deliverable here at Doha.

Russia expressed disapproval for AAU limits levied. Their objections were noted, but have no real bearing on the outcome for the time being. The US, having walked out of the first commitment period early on, stayed disinterested in the KP, and additionally threw in their two bits to make addressing issues in the future difficult.

This was clear vis-a-vis their comments about a weakened package. Developing country groups ensured that the 2015 agreement for a post-2020 world, is based on ‘the principles of the Convention’. This brings equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities into the context. The US expressed displeasure, perhaps setting the stage early on for a Kyoto-like escape from the new climate pact  in the coming years.

It was an extraordinarily weak outcome on climate finance which fails to put any money on the table or to ensure a pathway to the $100 billion a year by 2020 target, and provides no finance in the intermittent period. The decision asks for submissions from governments on long-term finance pathways, calls for public funds for adaptation but does not mention a figure, and encourages developed countries to maintain funding at existing levels dependent on their economies.

An agreed work program on loss and damage to help victims of climate change will start immediately and a decision “to establish institutional arrangement, such as an international mechanism, at COP19” was made. The language was weak and evasive, and US’s strong disapproval towards loss and damage is well-known. So whether it will make any actual progress in 2013 remains to be seen.

Individuals and groups within G 77 also noted their concerns. Indian lead negotiator Mira Mehrishi reinforced that “Equity is the gateway to ambition.”

India has made clear that all negotiations need to happen while keeping the principles of the Convention intact. They accepted the Kyoto Protocol, noting that it wasn’t perfect and accepted the new Durban Platform text provided it is “not violated in spirit or letter.”

India and most developing country parties noted the absolute lack of ambition on part of the developed countries to  mitigate. Philippines insisted that there must be increased mitigation, higher than emission, on part of developing countries by 2014.

Though it could have been a stronger result which did more to plug the gigatonne gap, the Doha decision reinforces the clear moral obligation for countries to increase their emission reduction targets prior to 2020 and provides opportunities for them to do so.

For example, the review amendment to the Kyoto Protocol is more of a political increase than a legal trigger, to retain the possibility of keeping temperature rise under 2 degrees, its clear that parties need to move to the 25-40 per cent emissions reduction range as soon as possible. There is no need to wait until 2014. In fact, we can hardly afford it.
To this end, the announcement of a  high level meeting in 2014 hosted by Ban Ki Moon has been announced, to be held after the IPCC report slated to be released that year. There needs to be a massive shift in political priority and ambition by then, otherwise the catastrophic results already set off by inaction will reach unimaginable heights.

(Photo courtesy: