Unlikely bedfellows for climate talks
December 04, 2012
Qatari Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (L) sits next to the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and his wife Sheikha Mozah (2nd R), and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (R) as they listen to the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the high-level segment of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha December 4, 2012. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad
At climate conferences, various countries and groups of nations form alliances to pursue certain goals. Together there is a lot they can do, but it is still no guarantee for long-term success.
They wanted to form an "Alliance of Ambitions" to extend the Kyoto Protocol. A year ago, the effort between the European Union and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) made headlines during the last climate conference in Durban in South Africa. The joint approach animated other countries to get on board and ultimately paved the way for the current summit in Doha, where the extension of the Kyoto Protocol is on the agenda again.
In the meantime, little is left of the once ambitious goals. This time around, in Qatar, the EU is making headlines of a different sort; namely, for not doing enough to protect the climate. And so, the EU has ended up in the crosshairs of international criticism.
The European Union is not prepared to clearly reduce its emissions in the coming years. It argues that it has practically achieved the goals set down in the Kyoto Protocol. The group of small island states expected more and, as a result, is disappointed with its erstwhile ally.
That is not a good omen for the outcome of the Doha climate conference. After all, together with the United States and China, the EU is responsible for more than 60 percent of global emissions. "At least two of the three big players will have to take a big step forward," said Christoph Bals, political director of Germanwatch, a non-governmental organization, "otherwise it will not be possible to limit the global temperature increase to two degrees."
While industrial countries generate the most emissions, it is the developing countries that suffer most from the effects of climate change. Hence, their respective interests differ. Christoph Bals has identified three groups: "Those who possess fossil fuels or are dependent on them generally play a destructive role in climate protection," he says. "Those who are poor or especially vulnerable play a constructive role, as do those who are relatively far along in using renewable energies."
The obvious conflict of interests makes climate negotiations particularly complicated. "Only when these normal fronts are broken up is there any movement in the negotiations," says Bals. "That`s why crossover alliances are so important for getting results.”
That was also the secret to success last time around in Durban. The alliance between the EU and AOSIS in South Africa succeeded because the small island nations were also members of the G77, a loose coalition of developing countries designed to promote their interests within the United Nations. The group is predominately made up of developing countries, plus China. “When those countries worst affected by climate change say that for serious climate protection they need both industrial and threshold nations on board, then China is suddenly also responsible,” explained Bals.
This effect, however, now seems to be blunted since the EU no longer appears to be as interested as before. And it shows that alliances in the climate debate are often tactical rather than strategic. Katherina Reiche, an under-secretary in the German environment ministry, can only hope that the EU-AOSIS alliance does not break up: “The next few days will see if the group stays together,” she said. But there was no talk of ambitious goals.
© 2012. Deutsche Welle.
Doha negotiations witness tremors in climate geopolitics
The Times of India
December 04, 2012
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon talks during the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the high-level segment of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha December 4, 2012. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad
The negotiations at Qatar National Convention Centre have so far played witness to tremors in the climate geopolitics with a slow cleaving of the relation between the `allies` of previous climate negotiations at Durban in 2011, EU and the association of 43 small island states or AOSIS.
At Durban, EU had forged a close alliance with the AOSIS and Least Developed Countries in what the developed world began to dub as the `coalition of the willing`. Their target at the Durban talks was singular – to get the world to agree that negotiations should be launched for a new global protocol which would break down the existing differential obligations of the rich and poor countries and increase the emission reduction efforts.
The alliance won a partial victory with the Durban Platform being launched to finalize a new compact by 2015 which would then be implemented from 2020. But developing countries, especially India fought back to make sure that the talks would happen only under the principles and provisions of the existing UN convention.
But this time around in Doha, the alliance has soured a bit. The AOSIS continues to demand that all countries increase their emission reduction pledges or commitments immediately but the EU has lost the appetite to live up to its own pitch for an `ambitious` deal. Its refused to up the 20% emission reduction target to be achieved between 2013-2020 under the Kyoto Protocol`s second phase even though it has already achieved 18%of it. Its announced that it will not up the pledge for the next few years.
The call for an increased ambition to reduce emissions from AOSIS in reaction has only got shriller. On Monday they are expected to go out public demanding more from Europe and the US just as much as they demand for other emerging countries.
EU`s allies at Durban were positioned publicly as the `most vulnerable` and consequently took the high moral ground even as they asked for issues of equity and other climate convention principles to be diminished for the sake of urgency and `ambition`. It took India, returning back to its original position of negotiations after a two year hiatus, to counter the charge, warning that more number of people remained under severe threat from climate change in India than most of the other AOSIS and LDCs put together. At Doha the two clauses of urgency and ambition from the same allies has now come to haunt a reluctant EU.
Though observers at the venue, Qatar National Convention Centre have warned that the alliance is not broken but only developed minor cracks. It remains to be seen if AOSIS, which very often is advised and represented by experts from other developed countries, would be able to withstand the pressure till the end of the week from EU and other developed countries and actually get what they are asking for at Doha so far.
There have been enough episodes at Doha too where AOSIS and LDCs have found common ground with the developed countries on issues against other developing countries.
But the AOSIS` demands off the developed world seems to have irked the EU. Other media outlets have quoted anonymous sources within the EU camp about AOSIS taking a `hardline stand`. Such statements emerged days after the chair of the AOSIS group from the island country of Nauru said, “The offer currently on the table (for emission reduction targets) is deeply inadequate in ambition, jeopardizes the entire Durban package.” These sources and statements were not independently verified by TOI.
According to news reports, the EU officials blamed the group of like-minded developing countries forged by India and China together as the reason for the growing distance between AOSIS and the EU.
In contrast one African negotiator told TOI, “The EU tried to break the unity within G77+China developing countries by knitting the alliance with AOSIS and LDCs at Durban. They succeeded to a large extent but now they feel threatened by the tigers they bred.”
An old hand at the talks among the observers at Doha though warned that the AOSIS demand may be a temporary ploy to show an ethical stand but only the last few days of the talks, when ministers from 194 countries arrive, would show the real colours and character of the strategic alliance of economic and political patronage between the EU and its developing world partners.
© 2012 The Times of India Group
G77 warns of collapse of climate talks
Nitin Sethi TNN
The Times of India
December 04, 2012
The second week of the UNclimate negotiations here began with fireworks, led by a unanimous and angry G77 warning of collapse of talks because a critical issue like equity was abruptly junked on Monday morning.
At the Doha talks one of the key concerns has been how countries would address the unresolved issues from the track of negotiations - called the Long Term Cooperative Action (LCA) - which is to close by the end of this week for good.
The developing countries had suggested that solutions for unresolved issues like finance, intellectual property, unilateral actions by countries against others and equity be either found here or `given home` in the future talks.
Till Saturday the negotiating text under consideration had kept these issues alive even as the developed world, especially the US, tried to shove them off the table.
But, when the country representatives gathered at the Qatar National Convention Centre on Monday the text had been changed and all the concerns of the poorer countries summarily lopped off.
Instead, the concerns of the rich world like market mechanisms to address climate change and a global peaking date for emissions found prominence in the negotiating text.
EU-small island states` ties under strain over emissions?
Doha: The negotiations at Qatar National Convention Centre have been a witness to tremors in the climate geo-politics with a slow cleaving of ties between the `allies` of Durban talks last year - the European Union (EU) and the association of 43 small island states or AOSIS.
The EU had forged an alliance with the AOSIS and least developed countries (LDCs) in Durban, with the developed world dubbing it as the `coalition of the willing`.
Their target at the Durban talks was singular - to evolve a consensus for a new global protocol which would break down the existing differential obligations of rich and poor countries and raise the emission reduction efforts.
The alliance won a partial victory with the Durban Platform being launched to finalize a new compact by 2015, and the implementation to kick in from 2020.
But developing countries, especially India, fought back to make sure that the talks would be held only under the principles and provisions of the existing UN convention.
But this time around, the alliance has soured a bit.
The AOSIS continues to demand that all countries increase their emission reduction pledges immediately, but the EU has lost the appetite to live up to its own pitch for an `ambitious` deal.
It has refused to up the 20% emission reduction target to be achieved between 2013 and 2020 under the Kyoto Protocol`s second phase even though it has already achieved 18% of it.
The European Union has announced that it will not raise the pledge for the next few years.
Copyright © 2012. Bennett, Coleman & Co., Ltd.
Doha Climate Change Talks Won`t End In Success; Qatar May Be Partly Drowned
APS Review Downstream Trends
December 03, 2012
Activists stand with a banner before a march to demand action to address climate change in Doha December 1, 2012. United Nations (U.N.) climate negotiations will be taking place in the country until December 7. According to local media, activists from across the Arab region will be calling on their leaders to pledge to reduce their emissions by 2020. REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous
*** The UN Tells Doha 2012 Was Among The Warmest In 160 Years: GHG Concentrations In The Atmosphere Have Reached New Highs; By Sept The Arctic Ice Level Was The Lowest Since Satellite Records Began And Had Shrunk By About Half An Area Nearly The Size of India; The Trend Is Contributing To The Rising Sea Which Is Already 20 Centimetres Higher In 100 Yrs, Posing Added Risks In The Event Of Extreme Weather; Hurricane Sandy Would Have Had Less Impact On NY Had It Been In 1912; Jan-Oct Temperatures Were 0.45 deg. Celsius Above The average In 1961-90; A Rise Of Only 1 deg. was Enough To Increase The Frequency Of Extreme Weather Events; The Above-Average Temperatures In 2012 Had Been Marked By Record Temperatures In Regions Such As Greenland, Siberia And Central China
*** Much Of The US, With Parts Of Europe, Western Russia & Southern China, Suffered Severe Drought, While Parts Of West/Sub-Saharan Africa Had Severe Flooding; Etc. On Nov. 26, Qatar`s capital Doha became more international. World leaders, negotiators, campaigners and activists from all corners of the Earth - nearly 200 countries - had descended on Doha for a conference about climate change which was to close on Dec. 7. More than 20,000 representatives were attending Qatar`s largest gathering to date, which marked the first time the UN climate conference was hosted in the Middle East. This was a great opportunity for Qatar to enhance its growing role in international diplomacy.
International climate change negotiations have been taking place annually for more than 20 years with the aim of setting national carbon targets to control global warming. Hosting the COP18 in Doha, however, was a very risky move, with many predicting the failure of the talks.
Historically, the Arab world has played an obstructive role. Countries such as Saudi Arabia sent negotiators who said climate change was not taking place and insisted oil exporters be compensated for any oil they would have to stop extracting. Qatar itself is not exactly a world leader when it comes to action on climate change.
Qatar has one of the world`s highest per-capita carbon foot-prints. The average Qatari accounts for CO[sup.2] which is around 300 times more than an Ethiopian and three times the average American - not exactly glowing statistics.
The Qataris, however, insist that this cause is something they feel passionately about. Fahd bin Muhammad al-Attiyah, president of COP18, admitted: “As a coastal dry-land nation, almost 100% dependent on the sea for its water and more than 95% dependent on technology and trade for its food, Qatar is vulnerable to climate change”.
Attiyah noted: “Qatar is one of the ten countries predicted to be most affected by a rising sea. So this global issue is critical here at home. It is one that we take seriously. And it is one that we are working diligently to address”.
In an effort to spread the message in the country, mosques are hosting sermons about the climate change and the need to stop water and energy wastage. In 2011, Qatar vowed to only build “eco-mosques”, which would limit the waste of electricity.
Qatar has another motive for supporting climate change initiatives: natural gas. Many commentators have noted that making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources will be quite difficult. Natural gas is a cleaner, less carbon-intensive energy source which should be considered.
As a gas-producing emirate, Qatar could play a big role in determining the path which countries take towards greater energy independence and reducing emissions. As such, Qatar is hosting the conference with its own agenda as well as the hope it will be able to pull off a successful climate summit.
The president of the Doha talks was criticised by the international campaign community for recently feting 450 senior executives from the fossil-fuel industry. He presented the Petroleum Executive of the Year award.
Avaaz, the international campaigning organisation, remarked: “As the official conference president, Attiyah should be working tirelessly behind the scenes to shore up a successful outcome of the negotiations, not presenting awards to the top brass of the oil industry. His decision to speak at...[the recent] Oil & Money conference [in London] puts his reputation and the climate talks at risk. He needs to change course before it`s too late”.
One of the main questions at Doha is whether the Kyoto Protocol will survive COP18. So far, the global climate negotiations have failed to secure a deal which legally binds all industrialised countries to reducing their emissions. The closest the negotiators have come to that is the Kyoto Protocol.
The protocol set obligations for industrialised countries which signed up to reduce their green-house gas (GHG) emissions by 5% from a 1990 base-line. The deal came into force in 2005 but did not include nations such as the United States or set legal targets for nations such as China and India which were considered developing countries and were therefore exempt from targets.
As the protocol ends this year, the talks in Doha will focus on extending this deal and attracting enough signatories to maintain its significance. Japan, Canada and Russia have already decided not to be part of the new commitment, although Australia and New Zealand have expressed their interest.
At Doha, countries will be battling it out on the length of the next commitment period and the GHG targets. And governments now are focused on coming up with a new climate change treaty on the emission cuts after 2020. They hope to have this deal done by 2015.
In the meantime, negotiators will look to extend the Kyoto Protocol for at least another five years or even eight years so that it would converge with the 2020 agreement. The European Union supports an eight-year extension with a mid-term review of the carbon targets.
The Alliance of Small Island States (ASIS), the Africa Group and Least Developed Countries, however, favour a five-year extension with an update of commitments based on the results of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change report which will be out in 2014.
Another issue raised is that there is not much time between the talks and the end of the Kyoto Protocol (Dec. 31). This means getting any agreement through national bureaucracies could further delay action. So, it looks like there is everything to play for at the talks and the pressure will be on.