IBON International Update #1 from Doha COP18

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Reportage from UNFCCC COP18 in Doha

Climate, Number 1 

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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 than their fair share of the atmospheric space and the ecological debt they have incurred on themselves and the resulting impacts on the poorest from many years of pollution and unsustainable development. They must usher in a new model of sustainable development, a shift away from an obsession with an exclusionary, top-down growth model geared towards excess consumption for private profit, towards new modes of production, consumption and distribution, and a rights-based framework centered on the principles of equity, justice, democratic ownership and respect for nature.
Developing countries will hope the developed world will see the reality of another paralysed climate negotiation process. As the Ugandan delegation observed in the Bangkok Intersessionals in September: “We are dying in the LDCs, can’t the issues be resolved here?”
 Ambition and equity – legally binding commitments
Ambition and equity are the overarching principles that the world must see at COP-18. Ambition in cutting emissions must be counterbalanced by equity in doing so, and funding to ensure the poorest can survive impacts of climate change they did not create. This must all be framed by a binding, legally enforceable framework.
There must be a unified and concerted effort from the world’s wealthiest countries to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the foundational principle of CBDR-RC. This must be reflected in reduced emissions goals as a first level priority not to be used as a makeweight in negotiating for compromises in other areas.
The Kyoto Protocol second commitment period
The Kyoto Protocol is the main foundation of attempts to cut emissions – the accession of Annex 1 Parties to a second commitment period (CP2) is a core outcome of the Ad Hoc Working Group under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and diagnostic to attempts to cut future emissions so as to avoid a disastrous 4°C rise. If CP2 lacks ambition and legal obligation, it will be difficult to pass off Doha as anything other than a failure.
It was not agreed in Durban whether CP2 would be a five- or eight-year period; Doha will reveal to all the true extent of the ambition of developed countries to match their climate change rhetoric with action in line with science.
Early indications are ominous. The US, where emissions have fallen by a meager 3 percent on 1990 levels, should take a lead on this in line with its ongoing “enormous” efforts to combat climate change. However, it, along with Japan, Russia, Canada and New Zealand look to have pulled out of CP2 in favour of a “pledge and review” system, leaving Australia and Europe alone in the treaty. Left as such, CP2will be an empty shell for reducing emissions in an equitable manner, and even if states that currently look as though they will sign on to a deal claim an agreed CP2 as a victorious outcome of COP18 this must not pass unchallenged.
As the Least Developed Countries group has pointed out, CP2 should be seen as a legal obligation—manifested through a ratifiable amendment of Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol to be implemented from January 2013—and developed country parties should submit their mitigation pledges (Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Objectives, QELROS) in line with an ambition to achieve drastic cuts in emission. However, amendments on CP2 will not be possible until the December 31, 2012 expiry of the first commitment period, prompting the developing country call for the “provisional application” of CP2 until the implementation of the amendment is possible.
The European Union is pushing for an eight-year CP2, which developing countries oppose if the treaty is to be weak. The EU’s mooted target of a 20 percent reduction (as part of a “20-20-20” package) on 1990 levels is a step back from a previous “opening bid” for a 30 percent reduction for CP2 and an ambition-less target the EU-27 is over halfway to achieving already. The EU had it believed 30 percent was the necessary reduction target but that it did not want to go for this level alone due to the high costs it would incur. Moreover, it is thought that the EU prefers a CP2 commitment to be under the Conference of Parties meeting as Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) rather than a provisional application. The EU must show leadership over the next week rather than not wanting to stick its head above the parapet.
The Green Climate Fund
The ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action (AWG-LCA) was established at COP-13 in Bali, in 2007. Alongside mandating that countries not in the Kyoto Protocol (then only the US) undertake comparable mitigation commitments, it mandated that developing countries engage in mitigation supported by finance and technology from developed countries. Developed countries, as was made evident at the Bangkok Intersessionals three months ago, no longer wish to discuss or engage in the AWG-LCA after a last-minute draft decision to end the group—unseen by developing countries—was put forward at COP-17 in Durban. Developed countries are particularly against developing countries’ mitigation actions being linked to fund and technology transfer from Northern countries, which for developing countries embodies the UNFCCC principle of equity. Specifics of the AWG-LCA including financing of developing countries, technology transfer and trade remain unresolved.
Wealthy countries have pledged USD100 billion annually by 2020 in climate finance, to be operationalised through the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This is seen as a means to help poor countries mitigate against and adapt to climate change, has been agreed to under commitments that are not legally enforceable, and lack rules, transparent monitoring and reporting, and the means of ensuring accountability.
Much like in wider development funding, there is an absence of predictability, little focus on helping the most vulnerable, and scant regard for a means of ensuring the meaningful participation of the people most affected by the impacts of climate change in the identifying, defining, implementing and evaluating projects and activities. Beyond this there has been little identification of public sources of finance to bring this pledge into reality, while the corresponding move to pushing private finance not only raises the fear of corporations accessing the fund but obscures the fund’s founding principle of climate justice – that those countries which have polluted the most must take the responsibility for their actions.
The Fast-Start Finance period, under which USD 30 billion was supposed to be transferred to developing countries between 2010 and 2012 is to end soon, leaving a gap between now and the time for the launch of the GCF. The World Bank estimates that mitigation in developing countries could cost up to USD175 billion a year over the next 20 years “with associated financing needs of US$265 to US$565 billion”, a figure that would rise in line with increasing climate change. The UNFCCC expert group on technology puts total finance needs at USD300 to USD1,000 billion a year, with additional funding of up to USD 505 billion a year needed for deploying and diffusing technology.
The time for carbon markets and offsets has been and gone. Real solutions to keep fossil fuels in the ground are needed. Legally binding, drastic emissions cuts on the basis of responsibility, and democratically owned climate finance governed by a truly multi-stakeholder process must be the outcomes of COP-18. And this is an outcome that must be led by developed countries in line with their responsibility, as stated by the UNFCCC (Article 3.1): “The developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.” ###
IBON International will co-host a COP 18 side event “Promoting the Busan Building Block on Climate Finance and Development Effectiveness” on December 1, 2012, from 18.30 to 20.00, in Side Event Room 7, Qatar National Convention Centre, Doha, Qatar.
IBON International will launch the Campaign for People’s Goals for Sustainable Development on November 30, 2012, from 13.00 to 13.30, in Press Conference room 2, Qatar National Convention Centre, Doha, Qatar.