Sustainability

UN Climate Change Conference extends Kyoto Protocol

UN Climate Change Conference extends Kyoto Protocol

The 18th session of UN Climate Change Conference (COP 18), held in Doha, Qatar, came to a close last Saturday (8 December), a full 24-hours later than scheduled, as delegates and representatives from the 195 parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) hashed out details of the ‘essential tasks’ needed to combat climate change.

The conference began on 26 November with discussions centring on issues such as the continuation and adjustment of the Kyoto Protocol and 2007 Bali Action Plan, whose objectives are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The outcomes of the conference, known as the Doha Climate Gateway, most notably includes the agreed extension of the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol, which commits developed countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and was set to expire at the end of this year, will now continue from the 1 January 2013 and will last eight years.

Australia, the EU, Japan, Lichtenstein, Monaco and Switzerland have stated that they will not carry over any surplus emissions trading credits (Assigned Amounts) into the second commitment period.

Further to this, a universal climate change agreement covering all countries from 2020 (to be adopted by 2015) was confirmed. This will scale up efforts to cut emissions before 2020, in order to avoid a ‘critical’ temperature increase of two degrees Celsius.

Meetings and workshops will be held in 2013 to raise ambitions for climate change reversal and to formulate the new agreement.

Also discussed at COP 18 was the provision of technology and finance for developing nations, to enable them to participate in efforts to combat climate change.

Governments approved the choice of the Republic of Korea as the location of the Green Climate Fund, which is expected to begin work in Sondgo in the second half of 2013.

Governments also confirmed a UN Environment Programme-led consortium as host of the Climate Technology Center, the implementing body of the UNFCCC’s Technology Mechanism, for an initial five years.

Developed countries also ‘restated’ their commitment to long-term climate finance support of developing nations. They confirmed their aim of providing US$100 billion for adaption and mitigation by 2020, with Germany, the UK, France, Denmark, Sweden and the EU Commission announcing finance pledges of approximately US$6 billion covering the period up to 2015.

Other issues discussed at the conference included plans for damage-limitation and adaption to protect the most vulnerable people from loss caused by slow onset climate change events, such as rising sea levels. Funding and other support in order to implement National Adaption Plans for the least developed countries was agreed.

Additionally, a new programme to boost climate education and training among the public was agreed.

‘Much work to do’

Commenting on the conference’s outcomes, COP President, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, said: “Doha has opened up a new gateway to bigger ambition and to greater action – the Doha Climate Gateway. Qatar is proud to have been able to bring governments here to achieve this historic task. I thank all governments and ministers for their work to achieve this success. Now governments must move quickly through the Doha Climate Gateway to push forward with the solutions to climate change."

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) highlighted the work that still needs to be done in order to avoid a rise in temperatures above the internationally agreed maximum of two degrees Celsius.

She said: “I congratulate the Qatar Presidency for managing a complex and challenging conference. Now, there is much work to do. Doha is another step in the right direction, but we still have a long road ahead. The door to stay below two degrees remains barely open. The science shows it, the data proves it.

“The UN Climate Change negotiations must now focus on the concrete ways and means to accelerate action and ambition. The world has the money and technology to stay below two degrees. After Doha, it is a matter of scale, speed, determination and sticking to the timetable”. 

‘Glacial’ progress

Environmental groups, however, have criticised the conference’s results. Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, expressed his disappointment: “Today we ask the politicians in Doha: Which planet are you on? Clearly not the planet where people are dying from storms, floods and droughts. Nor the planet where renewable energy is growing rapidly and increasing constraints are being placed on the use of dirty fuels such as coal. The talks in Doha were always going to be a modest affair, but they failed to live up to even the historically low expectations.

“Where is the urgency? The pace of progress is glacial. The inability of governments to find common ground to combat a common threat is inexplicable and unacceptable. It appears governments are putting national short term interest ahead of long term global survival.”

“Just three days after Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) hit the Philippines and showed the human cost of extreme weather in vulnerable countries, the decision by politicians not to increase the speed or scale of efforts to cut carbon pollution is inexcusable. The international process limps on, while the crisis accelerates. But with increasing impacts of climate change, pressure will intensify for a serious global deal in 2015.”

Environmental group Conservation International described the UN’s talks as ‘weak’ and the conference as a ‘crisis of priorities and procrastination’.

Dr. Fred Boltz, Senior Vice President for International Policy at Conservation International, added: “Nobody expected a major breakthrough to happen at this summit, but there has been virtually no meaningful progress on any important issue, including sustaining existing levels of financial support to help the most vulnerable nations cope with the negative impacts of climate change that, unfortunately, are already a reality. At most, what this meeting has achieved is an agreement to continue negotiating next year. This is completely unacceptable and irresponsible considering the severity and urgency of the challenge.

“Here in Doha we’ve seen growing distrust amongst nations divided and incapable of addressing this urgent global problem. Countries continue to put their ‘national priorities’ first, forgetting that we have a common interest. They are playing a game of chicken that risks sending all of us over the cliff.”

UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, conceded that though the conference outcomes were not "perfect”, there was “genuine progress".

"It's a bigger step forward than people have given us credit for. We wanted to pave the way for the future [discussions on a new global treaty] and we've done that."

The next major UN Climate Change Conference, COP19, is due to take place at the end of 2013 in Warsaw, Poland.

Read the outcomes of the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha.