Posts by: Pujarini Sen

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.

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After a 24 hour delay, delegates from more than 194 nations finally reached an agreement on a package of…

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Yesterday Friday 7th of December 2012 was supposed to have been the closing day of COP18. It’s 5:02pm on Saturday, and the COP session to approve the final outcome has still not commenced.

In a brief stocktaking plenary this morning, new texts were released for all three working groups. Since all three working groups closed last night, with issues outstanding in each one, the new texts will go straight to the Conference of Parties (COP), the final authority to accept or reject, directly.

However all three texts are disappointingly weak. The main asks here at Doha: a strong second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, finance pledges especially for the mid-term, an equitable outcome which takes historical responsibility into account by breathing life into loss and damage – nothing has been delivered in these texts.

In the Long Term Cooperative Action (LCA) track, many disagreements remain. Nothing substantial on shared vision or adaptation. The US has not changed their stance on loss and damage. This mechanism would require developed nations to aid the climate change induced losses and damages induced by developing countries. While the text does explore ways to support and meet the needs of developing countries facing loss and damage, including insurance, there is concern about whether or not the US will continue to block, as they did till as late as last night. Even in the text, an international mechanism is not binding, decision has been postponed till 2013.

Youth activists stand in solidarity with the developing countries on loss and damage

Additionally there has been no mid-term finance pledge. The text only calls to “increase efforts” – which is disappointing and unfair for developing countries, especially those like the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) and LDCs (Least Developed Countries).  Just one day ago the frustration had reached a crescendo when in the LCA closing session Philippines negotiator Naderev ‘Yeb’ Sano broke down and made an impassioned plea:

“I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”

Philippines was hit by Typhoon Bopha during COP18, just 3days back, and the toll of dead and missing is still rising. But negotiators from the developed world don’t seem to be listening. While US tries to raise $60bn domestically to deal with damages caused by hurricane Sandy, they continue to evade responsibility for losses faced by poor countries beyond their shores.

‘Yeb’ Sano (in blue) speaking at the closing session

Under the Kyoto Protocol too there is abysmal lack of ambition. Revisions were made to AAU carry overs and carbon trading rules in this morning’s text. But this along with very low mitigation pledges from EU and Australia, and no commitment from other countries, over all renders the current KP text weak and ineffective.

Last evening at the closing of the Durban Platform work group the new track into which all issues are set to shift from this year, US blocked the word “action” (dropping it from ”commitments and action”) from entering the text. They didn’t want anything from the Bali Action Plan to be part of this new platform. China commented bemusedly, “Does that mean we can’t use any English words from the Bali Action Plan?”

The US even objected to references from Rio20+ which took place earlier this year. Eventually parties decided on the term”enhanced action.” The text has also been forwarded to the COP for approval.

BASIC countries huddle in the wee hours of the morning as talks dragged on without consensus

Hopes are being pinned on progress in 2014 when UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon will convene a finance and mitigation pledging conference with heads of states after the IPCC report release due that year.

Here at Doha so far: there is no ambition, no money and no equity.

It remains to be seen if parties reopen the text for debate, accept it or reject it altogether.

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Yesterday Friday 7th of December 2012 was supposed to have been the closing day of COP18. It’s 5:02pm on Saturday,…

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There are only two days left till COP18 winds down. Yesterday night the negotiations went on till the wee hours of the morning only to remain at a complete deadlock.

Developed countries, especially US, continued to predictably block any significant movement within the negotiations, especially within the LCA.

The Long Term Cooperative Action track (LCA) scheduled to close this year, was born out of the Bali Platform. It was based on five pillars — shared vision for long-term cooperative action including global reduction of emissions, finances, to help mitigation, adaptation and technology development & transfer to tackle climate change. However, there has been little movement on these issues.

Key make or break points in LCA: Finance. No substantial development. A 100 billion dollars per yer by 2020 pledge had been agreed upon in Copenhagen, and in the intermediate time a “Fast Track Finance” had been set up. This was done to enable developing countries to access funds till 2020. Fast Track Finance also ends this year. So the finance situation from 2013 – 2020 still hangs in the balance. Dubbed the ‘fiscal cliff’ by the media, it’s a major make or break point for the developing countries, who will otherwise be left without funding till 2020.

Some countries, like UK (1.7 billion) have pledged. But BASIC made it very clear it’s certainly not enough, other countries need to come forward, and there’s still no clarity on how or whether this will be consistent through to 2020. US is yet to make a pledge.

The second make or break point comes under adaptation. Loss and Damage (L&D). Efforts are on to create a mechanism for compensation for losses and damages already unfolding as a result on climate change, rather, as a result of having inadequately dealt with it over the last 2 decades. Most, if not all, of this loss and damage is felt in the developing world. And it puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the developed world, because, unlike most other topics in discussion within the UNFCCC process, they can not pass on blame/responsibility for loss and damage to the developing world. It is certainly the effect of their emissions, their actions, and thus brings historical responsibility into sharp focus. The US is especially adamant on this issue, and seem determined to stall it.

And finally, on technology. Intellectual property rights (IPR) is a big bone of contention. The US is absolutely unwilling to budge from their position and even talk about IPR, let alone allow it to enter the LCA text. Without IPR most countries of the developing world will be unable to have access to cheap renewable energy. This will only increase emissions, as they continue to rely on dirty fossil fuel based energy to develop.

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) – the only legally binding agreement that sets binding targets for countries, is set to expire in Doha and the second commitment period must be agreed upon.

US had left the Protocol long back, and Canada has also jumped ship. Others like Russia, Japan, New Zealand have decided to stay in the 2nd commitment period, but not make any pledges to reduce emissions. This move is clearly so that they can continue to benefit from various financial mechanisms within the KP, while taking no responsibility themselves. Bolivia from the developing quarters had been a particularly strong critic of this.

Arguably, the most contentious issue under the KP is the carryover of carbon credits by developed countries. Poland seems to be singlehandedly holding the EU back from increasing their emissions cut pledges, and giving up surplus carbon credits in the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol. They are determined to carry their remaining credits over. Despite their blocking and negative attitude, to the annoyance of many civil society observers and environmentalists, they have been declared the hosts for the next COP.

Key make or break point in KP: A fair and ‘balanced’ 2nd commitment period. No commitment is not an option for the developing nations.

The closing of the LCA brings into being the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). All parties insist that talks around the ADP are going very well. However, it’s anyone’s guess where it’s going really. Without movement in LCA and KP, ADP will hang in balance.

Given the delicate nature of this transition from one track to the other, from one commitment period to the other, a lack of ambition and leadership is a pressing necessity. However, both are still to be seen here at Doha. Even the Presidency of Qatar has come under criticism for the lack of leadership and direction.

Particularly, the creation of ‘green rooms’ has been a cause of worry. This entails two parties, one developing, one developed, leading closed room discussions on contentious issues. It’s not an inclusive process, and as seen in Copenhagen most prominently, and can lead to an unfair deal.

Currently, those in-charge are:

  • Norway and Brazil on Kyoto Protocol amendments.
  • South Africa on Loss and Damage.
  • Switzerland and the Maldives on financing decisions.
  • Australia is working with Gambia on reporting guidelines.

Negotiating behind closed doors does not build confidence. There’s both fear of complete derailment and hope for a balanced outcome here in the corridors of Doha. Whatever happens will rapidly unfold in the next 24 hours or so.

Stay tuned for updates!

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There are only two days left till COP18 winds down. Yesterday night the negotiations went on till the wee hours…

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At the COP18 UN Climate Conference at Doha (Qatar), Bangladesh called for greater efforts on the part of all countries, especially industrialized nations to reach a successful conclusion.

Speaking at the COP President’s Stocktaking plenary on Monday afternoon, in reference to the Climate Vulnerability Forum’s latest Climate Vulnerability Monitor report, Bangladesh Environment Minister, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, said:

“What the Monitor exposes is the extent to which every negotiating point we have had on the table here in Doha is a major concession from developing and vulnerable countries. Just think: how 2 to 5 billion dollars a year for adaptation finance compares to the actual need of over 150 billion!”

Speaking subsequently at the COP18 presentation of the Monitor report, CVF member and Costa Rican Environment Minister, HE Dr. Rene Castro, said:

“The latest Monitor has managed to highlight for the first time the truly manifold set of vulnerabilities that so many of our countries are facing every day. For instance, the impact of heat on labour productivity had rarely surfaced before. But indeed, in Costa Rica, we already have refreshing stations in the fields to help farmers cope and rehydrate as the heat keeps rising. All these risks are very real and we can work together to address them more effectively.”

(View our interview with HE Rene Castro, Costa Rica’s Environment Minister here.)

Also speaking at the Monitor’s presentation, Dr. Q K Akmad, Coordinator of the Bangladesh Climate Change Negotiating Team, said:

“We have to adapt, we can’t avoid the impacts of climate change. But we cannot just go on adapting. At one point in time the situation will be out of our hands unless mitigation arrests climate change. We must concertedly advance on both fronts in parallel.”

The Climate Vulnerable Forum is an international partnership of climate-vulnerable countries from Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific founded in 2009 and comprising a growing group of 20 countries and led by its current Chair Bangladesh. The CVF commissions the Climate Vulnerability Monitor report, which assesses the current global impact of climate change. The 2ndedition of the Monitor was developed by Madrid-based humanitarian research organization, DARA.

The video above is an interview with Matthew McKinnon of DARA. He spoke about findings of the new report and about the myths that it busts.

At the COP18 UN Climate Conference at Doha (Qatar), Bangladesh called for greater efforts on the part of all…

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Development and integrity are not mutually exclusive. That’s why we are optimistic – in conversation with Costa Rican Environment Minister, HE Dr. Rene Castro.

Development and integrity are not mutually exclusive. That’s why we are optimistic – in conversation with Costa Rican Environment Minister,…

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