IBON International Update #1 from Doha COP18
Posted on 29 November 2012
Reportage from UNFCCC COP18 in Doha
Climate, Number 1
DOHA, November 29, 2012 — The 18th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened this week in Qatar. More pressure than ever before rests on this COP process ending with a meaningful outcome characterized by developed country ambition in achieving emissions reductions, equity between developed and developing countries in emission reductions and climate financing, and legally binding commitments on all of these.
The weeks leading up to the conference have underscored the stark situation faced by the world—in particular the poor and marginalized of the Global South—without immediate and concerted efforts to tackle climate change. The World Bank has warned of a 4° C temperature rise by 2100, and projected a 3° C rise if current pledges are adhered to; the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warned that without swift action we are on track to exceed by some 32 percent the level of carbon emissions needed to ensure reductions in emissions can take place at a “manageable cost” in 2020; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground to avoid a 2° C temperature rise by 2100.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many have hoped that a swing in US public opinion towards recognizing the impacts of climate change on potentially disastrous extreme weather events could result in a parallel swing in political will. Thus far the US spoke in advance of COP-18 of its “enormous” effort in combating climate change. President Barack Obama admitted that Washington remains far from a consensus on tackling climate change. To divert the world from an environmental and developmental crisis of immense proportion, the poorest countries of the world are in need of a new “Washington Consensus” – this time one that really is to their benefit.
Familiar fault lines will be at the heart of the upcoming negotiations. The world’s poorest will demand that the world’s richest raise the level of their ambition in cutting emissions. In turn, the world’s richest will push for voluntary pledges while demanding that reductions apply to all equally, inferring a level of responsibility for developing countries against the spirit of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities”. Underscoring all this will be the need for firm, rule-bound commitments to an improved climate financing beginning now.
Recent projections that China’s emissions are likely to rise until 2020 must not become an excuse for developed countries to stall negotiations. A focus on China’s absolute emissions belies the importance of per capita emissions and how these relate to economic development – China has said, with reason, that once it reaches a satisfactory per capita GDP level it will focus even more on emissions reductions. China, as with other developing countries, has a right to focus on its development, albeit a right that should be undertaken in a way that parallels the demands of sustainability.
Developed countries have a responsibility to pay for occupying more