Doha climate talks: An oasis of forward planning or a sandstorm of indecision?

Global transition

A pile of recent reports from UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, World Meteorological Association, PriceWaterhouse Coopers and European Environment Agency EEA all confirm the same alarming reality: current pollution trends and lack of governments’ will to act on climate are resulting in our planet overheating to levels where adaptation is no longer possible. In Qatar, where the latest UN climate negotiations are currently taking place, increases in temperature and associated impacts will certainly be felt as the climate changes.

Despite the fact that we are overshooting our planetary boundaries, Doha is not expected to to be a moment for big headlines and new ambition. That moment is scheduled to happen in 2015 when the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) track should deliver a new international treaty. But much has to happen by then both at the UN climate talks, and even more importantly, in national capitals. Governments need to start preparing for serious commitments in three years time. In the context of this process, Doha represents another important milestone. Here governments need to adopt the critical amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to allow it continue with a second commitment period.

We will also see the anticipated closure of the Ad Hoc Working group n Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA, also known as the Bali track) and establishment of two new work plans under the ADP. One is to increase near term (pre-2020) ambition and the other is for the 2015 legal instrument – which provides the vision for how the work will develop over the next 3 years.
Before governments can adopt the Kyoto amendments, one last set of details must still be agreed, including the length of the commitment period and rules to restrict the use and carry-over of surplus emissions rights, or “hot air.” In addition to the Kyoto Protocol, much other work remains to be done in Doha under the LCA, in particular on finance, common comparable accounting and Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV). Developing countries need assurances that progress is being made on long-term finance. A guarantee that there is finance flowing post 2012 will be crucial to addressing developing countries’ concerns about closing the LCA. Equity and ambition are two sides of the same coin.In order for the new legal instrument to be ambitious, it must also be fair.

EU stuck in the sand?
To achieve all these things, we need to keep negotiators out of the midday sun and keep work moving towards the action we all need them to take. For the EU in particular, we want to see someone stepping up and ending the eternal waiting game. The EU has to move beyond its 20% emission reduction target that it has already surpassed. It is not acceptable for any country to stick to current emissions levels, but it is especially unacceptable for a country aiming to lead in climate. Now is the opportunity to fix that.