COP18: final day and Doha outcome

Sat 1055: We’ve taken a break of several hours but still nothing further has emerged from the deeply troubled Doha climate change talks.

This blog signed off about three hours after the conclusion of a brief meeting of the main COP to approve some relatively non-contentious matters that had already been agreed. Frantic efforts were under way to shape an overall package that might gain approval.

Those efforts evidently boiled over on the vexed question of Loss and Damage, the COP terminology for tackling climate change after it has had its impact, as opposed to managing the risk in advance. The poorer countries want to ramp up previous attention to this issue, perhaps by establishing an International Mechanism for Rehabilitation and Compensation.

Lurid tales of loss of temper in the meeting rooms in the early hours of this morning may explain why the proceedings had to be halted and delegates summoned for a prompt start this morning.

At 8.15am they assembled for an informal plenary at which the COP President released texts representing an outcome for the three tracks of the negotiations.

Delegates have been considering these with a view to another plenary session of the COP at 10.00, then 10.30 and then, who knows, but there are signs of action in the main hall.

We’ll do our best to report what unfolds. The only certainty is that none of the participants can possibly be in a fit state to hold our futures in their hands.


Sat 1335: Is it legitimate to evaluate the progress of a news event by the tone of twitter hashtags associated with it?

Here’s a quick selection of hashtags featured in tweets about the Doha COP in recent hours:


and a rogue one, not sure how this squeezed in:



Sat 1355: It’s becoming clear that the best laid plans of the COP presidency have gone awry yet again. The promised plenary to feed back reactions to outcome texts circulated just after 8.00 this morning shows no sign of happening. Now the rumours suggest there will be no further gathering until early this evening.

It’s just conceivable that this is positive news – that someone has identified an acceptable formula for strengthening the outcome and senior negotiators are busy taking it forward.

But it has to be said that these long unplanned silences with negotiators behind closed doors usually bode ill. Rumours are rampant – maybe there’s been a fight between US and AOSIS ending in tears, Russia is blocking a breakthrough, the US won’t advance the current tepid interpretation of loss and damage; New Zealand won’t sign a declaration on the use of hot air credits….and much more.

This all inflicts plenty of loss and damage on the UN climate change process for which the Qatari hosts are most likely to take the flak.

Taking a broad view of the last 24 hours, I would say that there’s been an important shift in expectations. At this time yesterday, it seemed that the desire for a rock bottom outcome amongst the Umbrella group and other major polluters would be bulldozed through the COP with the aid of the Qataris. The NGOs seemed despondent.

But that gameplan is either history or on life support. Somewhere along the line, some heels have been dug in. There’s been terrific encouragement from young activists for the tiring negotiators from poorer countries to stand firm for climate justice. The long delays suggest that these tiny delegations may have managed to defend their positions against overwhelming odds.


Sat 1510: Trying to interpret the musings of COP President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah is proving beyond even the most experienced observers of the cultural diversity that is a strength of these multilateral negotiations.

I’m certainly none the wiser from the very brief informal plenary that has just finished. Mr Al-Attiyah is part genial facilitator, part homilist and part comic – without quite succeeding in any of these roles.

I think he told us that the divisions between parties over the texts presented to them earlier today are so great that he’s going to go ahead with the formal agenda anyway, perhaps hoping that none will have to courage to say “no” when it comes to the crunch. But that’s a provisional interpretation.

We’re therefore starting again soon, from the point in the agenda that deals with amendments to the Kyoto Protocol. I’m not sure whether these amendments include the one involving Russia. There have been rumours today that Russian cooperation has been in short supply. We may therefore get early signs of the mood music.


Sat 1545: We’re being held up by a frustrating technicality. Some see sinister motives at play. Here’s my less than expert take on the issue.

The agenda that’s about to be addressed includes an item dealing with amendments to the Kyoto Protocol. I’m not sure whether this refers to the major amendment to facilitate the second commitment period or minor issues such as changing the status of Kazakhstan from Annex 1 to Annex B.

Amendments to the Protocol require written consent of all parties. A reminder was spelled out in instructions issued by the UN secretariat at the intersessional talks in Bangkok in September.

There’s been an announcement that a long list of parties have not fulfilled this procedure, including even the EU and UK. Is this creative memory loss?


Sat 1655: The technicality over written consents may have been a smokescreen for a deeper problem. While the letter writing was going on, European delegates began to display signs of anxiety, initially in a huddle in the hall and then behind closed doors.

The likeliest cause is Poland, a compulsive spoiler of these proceedings due in part to its sensitivity to any Kyoto Protocol deal that affects its vast over-supply of hot air carbon permits.

It’s not clear why this moment was chosen. Certainly awful for the EU which would doubtless prefer to keep its internal rows out of sight.

I get the impression that the President’s efforts to get this show on the road are struggling to get out of first gear. It sounds as though it’s not just the EU having fights. Whatever happened to alliances? – now everyone seems to disagree with everyone else.


Sat 1900: COP18 has exploded into life with its eccentric President wielding the gavel like a sledgehammer on a Qatari building site. Take the whole package or leave it is the first message; and the second declares it accepted as the gavel pounds the table.

Now he’s allowing some statements. Todd Stern opens by dictating what the US will accept and what it will not accept – take that or leave that.

This will take some unravelling.


Sat 1930: While we listen to a succession of dazed speakers promising not to purchase unused hot air credits from the first Kyoto commitment period, as though swearing allegiance at a scout camp, I want to record Todd Stern’s comments on the package “agreed” at COP18.

These claims for US exceptionalism will be the litmus test for the legitimacy of this embarrassing circus.

“Now we are concluding it (the LCA) – and I think have concluded it – and  that’s a good thing – Mr President I do need to tell you that there are a few paras in which I want to  make a few short comments.

First with respest to para 2 of the LCA outcome doc (on equity and common but differentiated responsibilities) I want to make it clear that the United States does not accept this paragraph 2 to the extent that it is read in a manner that  is inconsistent with the FCCC and the Cancun agreements.

He had a problem with the paragraph dealing with trade measures and then moved on the to tricky part of the ADP:

“Third regarding the last preambular paragraph of the decision on the ADP which references the principles of the Convention – the United States views this reference as having no effect whatsoever on the mandate for the negotiations that was agreed last year in Durban.  This provision cannot and will not be the basis upon which the United States will engage on the work of the ADP and we will reject any attempt to invoke this provision as having any relevance to that mandate.

We would request that a report of this meeting reflect the various points in my statement according to the relevant agenda items.”


Sat 2010: The Climate Action Network, representing over 700 global NGOs, has immediately condemned the “Doha Decision”.

“These talks have failed the climate and they have failed developing nations,” said Tasneem Essop, head of the WWF delegation.

The NGOs are concerned that the Doha talks have failed to deliver any cuts to carbon pollution at a time when the catastrophic effects of climate change are all too evidently fulfilling the predictions of scientists.

With the world’s poorest countries facing exponentially rising costs of low carbon development and climate adaptation, Doha has done nothing to guarantee that climate finance will go up rather than down. “These are vague words and numbers,” said Tim Gore of Oxfam.

There was however a welcoming word from the NGOs for the emergence of the Arab Youth Climate Movement, now positioned to demand leadership on climate change from governments in the region.


Sat 2140: It’s not easy to summarise the decisions made in the so-called Doha Climate Gateway. The outcome documents themselves are incredibly complex. The UNFCCC press release is a little better, with a mere 4 pages.

Here’s a few points from an unpalatable menu:

Emissions: those few countries participating in the new 8-year second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol must review their pledges for cutting emissions no later than 2014.

Those countries not participating in the Kyoto Protocol must attend workshops in 2013 to discuss ambition and submit their throughts to the secretariat.

Climate Finance: donor countries are encouraged to continue the existing level of fast start finance for the period 2013-2015. For longer term finance, governments will continue a work programme. The Green Climate Fund is not expected to launch activities until 2014.

Loss and Damage: a pathway has been established for creation of institutional arrangements to improve protection against slow onset events such as rising sea levels. Extreme weather events are presumably excluded.

Hot Air Permits: there’s no sign of any plans to cancel the hangover of credits from the Soviet fallout. Some key countries have made political promises not to purchase these credits.


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