COP18 Doha UN climate talks Dec 4th

Tues 0825: The High Level Segment of the Doha COP will be opened by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, at 3.00 this afternoon. Plenary statements by ministers will continue over the next couple of days.

As well as getting their hands dirty by entering the fray of negotiations, ministers have been invited to join a lunchtime ministerial dialogue on market mechanisms.

This emphasis on the private sector dimension of the fight against climate change has not gone without comment. The ministerial roundtable for improving pledges for emissions reductions has to wait until tomorrow.

This agenda may play into the hands of those who question the influence of the business sector at major UN events. Remember the title of that Friends of the Earth report published for the Rio+20 summit: “Reclaim the UN from Corporate Capture.”

Talking of Rio+20, it’s salutary to recall that, when ministers arrived in Rio, the entire outcome text had already been agreed. There was nothing for them to do except sip cocktails.

It doesn’t happen that way at climate summits.


Tues 1120: In past years, the developed countries have succeeded in keeping the lid on the subject of Loss and Damage in climate negotiations.

There’s been talk of innovative insurance products for households, farms and communities which cannot look to their governments for compensation after extreme weather events. But the insurance principle can only be stretched so far by the helping hand of subsidy.

Now we learn that Loss and Damage is on the list of issues that have to be referred to ministers arriving at the Doha COP. There is strong evidence that this was unexpected – US special envoy, Todd Stern, was honest enough to decline to answer a question in yesterday’s press conference because he wasn’t briefed on this topic.

Just in case he’s not alone, a group of over 40 civil society organisations and networks led by ActionAid, CARE and WWF will present an open letter to ministers today, urging them to take proactive action on Loss and Damage.

The letter refers to “a new era of severe climate impacts which are hitting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.” It calls for COP18 to establish a new International Mechanism for Rehabilitation and Compensation.”


Tues 1245: Wendel Trio of Climate Action Network Europe has given a press conference to sort out confusion over the European Union pledge to cut emissions by 20% by 2020. Is it a pledge or is it a turkey?

It’s a turkey. Projections calculated for the European Commission show that by the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2012) emissions will already have fallen by 20% from the 1990 baseline.

“The real EU pledge is actually for a zero reduction in the second commitment period to 2020,” Trio said.

The more positive news is that policy initiatives already introduced by the EU on fuel quality, energy efficiency and the cap-and-trade system will drive down that reduction to around 27% by 2020, assuming they are implemented. Trio said that this raises questions for NGOs:

If the EU has made the effort of introducing those policies, why is it not driving these talks forward?

If the EU, which claims to be a leader in climate change, refuses to move, why would anyone else do so. We call on the EU  to increase its pledges and challenge the others to do the same.


Tues 1405: Which metaphor would you prefer – a pack of cards, the domino effect or the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

They’ve all become common currency when describing the Doha climate negotiations and the Climate Action Network International press conference just completed was no exception.

Speaking on behalf of the NGO network, Kelly Dent of Oxfam laid out the dominoes for us (my paraphrase):

if you can’t get progress on finance, adaptation and technology transfer,

then developing countries won’t allow the Bali Action Plan track of the talks to close this year as intended

which means you won’t get agreement for a roadmap to complete negotiations for a new climate agreement by 2015

which means that the few remaining parties willing to sustain the Kyoto Protocol may jump ship

That’s what happens when successive years of climate talks end only through last gasp agreements in which less than elegant compromises had to be struck. Stack them up together and you need more than Doha cement to fill the cracks.

Kelly Dent suggested that the issues most likely to break each of the three negotiating tracks respectively are finance, hot air credits and (lack of) ambition for greater cuts in emissions.

Li Yan of Greenpeace East Asia said that work on the Bali Action Plan track was supposed to be completed today. She reports that yesterday’s negotiations on finance “went downhill, spending 3-4 hours going in a circle.”


Tues 1430: Sir Nicholas Stern is currently facilitating the ministerial dialogue on the role of market mechanisms under the UNFCCC.

Summing up contributions at an interim stage of the discussion, he said this:

there is uniform agreement that markets make perfect sense in providing incentives and getting emission cuts as cheaply as possible.

Uniform agreement? I suspect that over the next 24 hours we’ll be hearing from rather less exalted forums on this topic, perhaps reaching a rather different conclusion.

They might also take cheer from what Lord Stern had to say in his next breath:

we are still faced with the collapse of carbon markets over the last 18 months.

He’s challenged the Panel to suggest how this collapse could be reversed over the next 18 months.

We’re only a few minutes into the responses but these have stuck with technical issues. The simple salvation of the carbon price lies in this Doha COP reaching an agreement which convinces the markets that governments will pursue emissions reductions consistent with the demands of science.


Tues 1600:  A firm commitment to climate finance at last! The press conference given by the UK delegation an hour or so ago announced that £2.9 billion would be channelled through the UK’s International Climate Fund.

A formal press release has been issued by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. You’ll have to read through a lot of minor project announcements before getting to the meaty bit.

The timing of this announcement, just before the High Level Segment of the Doha COP gets under way, will win plaudits for the UK, already a pin-up amongst the global development community for honouring overseas aid promises.

The figure will need much analysis of course. For a start, it relates to a period of 4 years from April 2011, overlapping with the fast start climate finance period of 2010-2012. It’s not additional to existing plans and it’s not clear whether the funding will be entrusted to the Green Climate Fund or streamed through more familiar multilateral and bilateral channels.

But for now, it’s three cheers for the old country!


Tues 1630: The High Level Segment of the Doha COP is finally under way after a delay of about an hour.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon has delivered a speech of impassioned language exhorting delegates to act: “I urge all parties to work with the spirit of compromise and take the long view,” he said.

I think he meant the long view of national interests but the very short view of the needs of these negotiations. He had opened with the warning: “let us be under no illusion. This is a crisis…..the danger signs are all around.”

Ban listed his expectation of 5 deliverables from this COP: a 2nd commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, the promise of long term finance, a long term binding (yes, that word!) agreement on track for 2015, the resolution of issues relating to the Bali Action Plan and vision for how to bridge the emissions gap.

The words will register with historians as relevant to the agenda. Did they register with delegates?


Tues 1710:

A stern message to President Obama from NGOs: Recall your negotiators!

This was the uncompromising call to President Obama by Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, speaking at a press conference shared with Oxfam and WWF at the Doha COP.

Led by Naidoo, the NGO speakers laid out evidence that the White House and the US delegation in Doha are not communicating with each other.

Just weeks ago, President Obama’s post-election victory speech displayed a vision of a second term priority for addressing climate change.

Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing have come to Doha with their needle stuck in the groove of obstructing the UN process, an art they have perfected.

Naidoo continued:

“It is disrespectful of President Obama to inflict on us two negative negotiators who act as if the comments he made after his election were never made.

He should either pick up the phone and tell his delegates to follow his lead or alternatively call them back to Washington.”


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