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Climate Talks: The Nonsense Persists

Posted: 2012-12-11
From: Mathaba
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UN system of global decision making fails again in providing for a better future

Doha climate change talks delivered little

Date December 11, 2012

Tom Arup

IT WAS never meant to be more than an incremental step, but even on that modest test the United Nations climate change talks in Doha delivered little.

First the progress, however limited. The world's only climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, was extended - as expected. The European Union and Australia signed on. But previous industrialised signatories Japan, Russia and Canada did not.

That leaves Kyoto weakened but alive. Countries get to choose their own 2020 emissions targets and will consider in 2014 whether to make them stronger.

A rough work plan was set for a new global agreement to be finalised in 2015 and come into force in 2020. If successful, it will be the first time major countries such as the US, China and India set binding emissions targets. But progress on a long-standing commitment for rich countries to contribute $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer nations cut emissions, and adapt to a warmer world, was put off for a year.

Early commitments to the goal - including $600 million from Australia - will expire in days, and developing countries wanted new funding promises. While many European nations did this, Australia and the US did not.

The Doha deal also formally established a principle of ''loss and damage'' for the first time. While the existing $100 billion a year promise is for cutting emissions and adaptation, a new system could emerge where rich countries help poor countries with cleaning up after extreme weather events caused by climate change.

Some media reports on Monday suggested Australian taxpayers could be liable for $3 billion a year under the new principle. That figure is roughly drawn from 2011 research that found Australia's contribution to the long-promised $100 billion fund should be $2.4 billion a year, based on its wealth and emissions.

Even if Australia were to cough up $2.4 billion, the money would not all come from taxpayers. A good proportion would be derived from private sources. The government has not yet said what it believes Australia commitment should be.

Knowing what ''loss and damage'' might ultimately mean for Australia is years away.

Doha climate gateway: the reaction

Responses to the final deal have mixed, but ministers admitted it does not solve all of the issues that needed to be addressed

Fiona Harvey in Doha
guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 December 2012 10.46 EST
* The UN climate talks ended late on Saturday night, with tired delegates relieved that their negotiating ordeal a marathon 36-hour-final session at the end of the fortnight of talks was over.

Reactions to the outcome since then have mixed, however. The ministers from nearly 200 countries who hammered out the final deal called the Doha climate gateway were broadly pleased with it, but they admitted it did not solve all of the issues that needed to be addressed, despite the time spent on it.

"This is not perfect, but it is genuine progress," said Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate change secretary. "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."

Countries are working towards a new global agreement on climate change that would, unlike the Kyoto protocol, require cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from both developed and developing countries, to be signed in 2015 and come into force from 2020. At Doha, they cleared away some of the obstacles to the proposed new treaty, including starting on a new period of the Kyoto protocol that will last until 2020, reorganising the negotiations into a single unified set of talks, and setting out a work programme of negotiations up to 2015. This was broadly achieved.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate chief, said: "In Doha, we have crossed the bridge from the old climate regime to the new system. We are now our way to the 2015 global deal. It was not an easy and comfortable ride. It was not a very fast ride either. But we have managed to cross the bridge. Very intense negotiations lie ahead of us. What we need now is more ambition and more speed."

Barack Obama's special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, said: "Before we started, I said that this would be a transitional [conference]. There will be growing pains in this process [of negotiating a new treaty] but it's very important, I think, that we will move forward."

He said that combining the two negotiating tracks one on the Kyoto protocol, the other on "long-term co-operative actions", which were separated after the Kyoto protocol came into force in 2005, at the behest of the US which refused to ratify the protocol was essential to making progress in the new talks. He also gave a clue as to the focus of the new talks, which is likely to be China, as the world's biggest emitter. "[You can't] cut a deal unless you have got all the big players in the room," he said.

But green groups and anti-poverty campaigners blasted the talks. "A weak and dangerously ineffectual agreement is nothing but a polluters charter it legitimises a do-nothing approach whilst creating a mirage that governments are acting in the interests of the planet and its people," said Asad Rehman, head of climate and energy at Friends of the Earth. "Doha was a disaster zone where poor developing countries were forced to capitulate to the interests of wealthy countries, effectively condemning their own citizens to the climate crisis. The blame for the disaster in Doha can be laid squarely at the foot of countries like the USA who have blocked and bullied those who are serious about tackling climate change. Our only hope lies in people being inspired to take action."

Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, said recent extreme weather events showed the urgency of taking swift action on greenhouse gas emissions. "Just three days after Typhoon Bopha hit the Philippines and showed the human cost of extreme weather in vulnerable countries, the decision by politicians not to speed up efforts to cut carbon pollution is unforgiveable. The international process limps on, while the crisis accelerates."

He accused delegates at the conference of being out of touch. "We ask the negotiators 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 politicians and negotiators have lost touch with climate reality sadly their failure will be paid for in lives and livelihoods," he said.

Bindu Lohani, vice president at the Asian Development Bank, said the result had provided a "gateway" to a new agreement, or at least "kept the door open for a possible robust and ambitious future" deal. But he warned that extreme weather events were a particular problem for Asia. "There is increasing evidence that Asia is more vulnerable to the impact of natural disaster due to climate change. Typhoon Bopha which recently hit the Philippines and has impacted about 200,000 people is yet another example of the devastation that such events cause," he said. "Regardless of the pace of international negotiations, Asia must act now as neglecting these threats will put millions of the region's most vulnerable people at increased risk of increased poverty, ill health and premature death. Among other measures, we need to mobilise massive funds for climate change adaptation around $40bn a year for Asia and the Pacific would be a very conservative estimate."

'Polluters and Beggars' at Climate Change Talks in Doha

Posted: 12/10/2012 12:17 pm

By Betwa Sharma - HuffPost

DOHA, Qatar -- During a public event at the United Nations climate change conference in Doha, India's veteran environmentalist Sunita Narain told a senior negotiator from India, "The Indian government should take a principled stand and walk out of the Doha climate talks if equity is not made a part of the deal."

On the same evening, in what is seen as a shift in the United States' position from 2011, its climate envoy Todd Stern told ministers that the "principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities" should be discussed in the talks.

Developing countries hold the historical greenhouse gas emissions of the industrialized world responsible for the climate crisis. For these countries, principles of equity and "common but differentiated responsibility" protect their right to develop now.

But developed countries say that plans to combat climate change won't be effective unless emerging economies like India and China reduce their growing emissions. A post-2020 treaty, which will place all parties under legal obligations, is in the works.

In 2007, China (with 19.91 percent of the world's population) released 22.7 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, the United States (4.55 percent population) released 19.73 percent, the 27 countries of the European Union (7.47 percent population) released 13.76 percent and India (16.99 percent population) released 4.78 percent, according to the 2011 assessment by the Washington, D.C.-based World Resources Institute.

Ms. Narain, head of the Centre of Science and Environment in Delhi, has been an activist at the climate talks since 1991. Time magazine has called her one of the most influential people in the country. The environmentalist discusses equity and why these negotiations are between "polluters and beggars."

Q) You urged the Indian government to walk out if there is no equity. Did you mean it?

A) Of course. It's a very important principle. At the end of the day in climate negotiations, there are two issues. We want ambition and that ambition has to be based on a fair distribution of the common atmospheric space. We need to cut emissions drastically but we also need to decide who will cut and who has the right to development. And those are fundamental issues of climate change negotiations. We have been fighting and discussing these for the past 20 years. And instead of deciding now that we should cop out and let the world have its way, I think India should be bold enough to say we walk out because some things in life are non-negotiable. Equity is non-negotiable.

Q) But the world has changed since these principles were first adopted in 1992?

A) There is no doubt that India and China have grown in terms of their emissions since 1992 when developed countries had the bulk of the emissions. Now, it's 50-50. In fact, developed countries are 43 percent.

Very clearly, the world has changed. But the world has not changed in the fact that the agreement in 1992 was that they [developed countries] would reduce and we [developing countries] would increase. And they never reduced. The commitment that was made to provide space for us to grow was not done.

So you cannot tell the Chinese that oops, we couldn't reduce and now we've run out of space... now you can't grow... so you just have to reduce. That's not acceptable. You cannot freeze inequity.

Q) What do you make of the flexibility in the United States' position on equity just before the talks are set to wrap up?

A) I think it's good that the Americans have looked up the dictionary and found the word equity. Now, the challenge is to operationalize it. But we know that the American definition of equity does not include historical emissions but only future emissions. For us, both are important. But pressure should be maintained on the United States because it's civil society pressure that has worked to change its position.

Q) The old climate regime of developed countries shouldering the burden of tackling climate change is on its way out. India's also agreed to a post-2020 treaty that will bind all nations. Do you think developing countries may have been outwitted in climate negotiations?

A) The rich world is powerful. Come on. They call the shots everywhere. Why do you expect them not to call the shots here? The fact that the developing world has stuck out for the past 20 years is a huge achievement. Which negotiations has the developing world been able to succeed? And today, the poor are fighting the poor for the little crumbs that are being thrown at us. These negotiations have been reduced down to polluters and beggars.

Q) What is India's own responsibility towards cutting its greenhouse gas emissions?

A) I think India has no responsibility at the global level to cut its emissions. But India has a lot of responsibility to avoid emissions for its own interest in India.

Q) Has it been doing so?

A) Not enough, it has to do more. And that's our job as environmentalists to push it to do more.

Q) And how can it do more?

A) Put a tax on diesel cars.

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