COP18 Doha UN climate talks Nov 26

Monday 9.15GMT: The Climate Action Network (CAN) will be holding a daily press conference each morning at the Doha COP. As a global network of over 700 NGOs, these sessions will give us vital insight into one of the key levers of influence tugging at the eventual outcome.

The first session just completed saw the NGO speakers lay out their opening hand for the conference. We should make the most of this because each day the finer points of the negotiations will get more and more complicated, leading us into the labyrinth of COP gobbledegook.

For now the NGO message is plain. A strong second commitment period of binding emissions cuts under the Kyoto Protocol plus comparable pledges from richer countries not in the KP plus a credible roadmap towards promised climate finance are the necessary conditions to bring both stronger and weaker developing countries into a shared fight against climate change.

The worrying part was Martin Kaiser’s view that “Europe is not prepared for this conference.” Representing Greenpeace Germany, he said that Europe has not sorted out its divisions over raising its pledge from 20% to 30% emissions reductions by 2020, nor the disagreement with Poland over cancelling the “hot air” carbon credits which threaten to neuter the efforts of everyone else.

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists covered the crucial expectations of the United States. He took a conciliatory line, praising the president’s moves on the motor industry and renewables, and welcoming the new mood music since Hurricane Sandy.

Meyer outlined four signals required from the US team for Doha: restatement of commitment to the two degree threshold for global warming, clarity on meeting the pledge of 17% emissions reductions (2005-2020), vision for deeper post-2020 reductions and commitment to the US share of delivering the promise of climate finance of $100 billion pa by 2020.

This is indeed conciliatory. There’s nothing in these demands beyond the promises made by the President and Hillary Clinton way back in 2009 at Copenhagen. Surely it will take more than 17% to nudge the BASIC countries into a response?


Monday 11.00GMT: Fears that the Qatari President of COP18, His Excellency Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, might prove a loose cannon in the delicate world of climate negotiations gained ground within minutes of his first press conference.

A Chinese journalist asked whether Doha was a controversial choice of venue for the COP, given that it has the highest emissions per capita in the world

Did I really hear this reply?

I think we should not concentrate on per capita. We should concentrate on the quantity from each country.

The camera didn’t offer a reaction shot of the Chinese lady. But there will be plenty of reactions from her compatriots and all other developing countries. The core principle of equity in these negotiations rests on the massive gap in per capita emissions between rich and poor countries.

The minders of His Excellency are going to have a busy fortnight.


Monday 12.00GMT: My concern that the US might be missing from the press conference schedule proved mistaken. Our old friend Jonathan Pershing is back in typically authoritative form.

Any chance of a teeny hint of greater ambition for pledges on emissions in light of that hurricane, Mr Pershing?

I do not anticipate that the United States will in the pre-2020 timeframe modify the commitment that we have made in the political context… for something approaching in the context of legislation 17% below 2005 levels by the year 2020.

Immediately before this COP-numbing arms-folded non-negotiable defiance, Pershing talked about the consequences of the extreme weather events experienced in his country over the last year:

those events and the combination of those events is certainly changing the minds of Americans, and making clear to people at home the consequences of the increased growth in emissions, the trends and what we might try to do to avoid them becomes much much more important

Is it my imagination or are these two statements contradictory?


Monday 1400GMT: It’s only the first day and we have a serious impasse over the desperate need to accelerate reductions in emissions in order to meet that 2 degree target.

Artur Runge-Metzer, lead negotiator for the European Union, has just insisted that the EU won’t increase its 20% pledge (1990-2020) unless other “major economies” improve their offers. An hour earlier, in the same room, the US envoy saw no prospect of improving his country’s 17% pledge (2005-2020).

You can sympathise with both sides. The US pledge converts into a miserly 4% from a 1990 baseline. But the European pledge will be achieved next year (Mr Runge-Metzer conceded this) so the BMWs keep their foot down at 200kph for another 7 years.

A questioner from AP forced Runge-Metzer to tell us what this means for the Doha COP:

I think that this is the kind of political situation we’ve been referring to before in this Doha conference. Because the US clearly says it cannot move we do not think there will be any productive discussion on upping individual country’s targets in Doha…..We are not closing the door and we don’t think the US was indicating they are closing the door to this debate in the coming years and I think this is something that will be kept alive and probably you will see a decision that countries will want to discuss this is coming years.

Take a deep breath because there are 17,000 people in Doha who are not going to be happy to be told that there’s nothing to play for.


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