COP18 Doha UN climate talks Dec 5th

Wed 0835: This is a COP greatly in need of good news and it may have to wait only an hour for gratification. Hopes are pinned on the “High Level Announcement” at a 9.30 press conference with Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, wife of the Emir of Qatar, alongside Ban Ki-moon and Christiana Figueres. The Green Climate Fund awaits in expectation.

It seems inconceivable that this COP could be so disconnected from the real world as to fail to achieve a meaningful outcome on Friday. But it’s hard to find grounds of optimism and time is running out. The three tracks of negotiations are so closely linked and yet it’s logistically impossible for their formalities to reach a simultaneous conclusion – who jumps first in the chicken game?

Talking of disconnected, yesterday’s most dramatic intervention came when Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace accused the US delegation of ignoring the post-election signals of President Obama. US special envoy, Todd Stern, gets his chance to mend his ways when he meets the press this afternoon.


Wed 0950: So far the “high level announcement” by Qatar show signs of being less than stratospheric as far as the hard business of this COP is concerned.

We’re watching a “signing ceremony” for an MOU between the Qatar Foundation and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. It covers the establishment of a “premium research institute” in Qatar. There’s also talk of a “global forum on climate change issues to address practical implementation across society.” Not sure what that means yet.

It’s all strong on “honoured guests” and “great pleasures”. Not so hot on climate finance or pledges to reduce those steepling per capita emissions in Qatar and the wider region.


Wed 1425: It does make life easier when you hear a consistent message from all speakers on a panel for a press conference. Even those of us who are a bit slow will get it.

I can with some confidence state that the message to President Obama just delivered by 5 speakers “representing the youth of the United States of America” was this:

We got you elected. We expect our interests to be high on your agenda. That means action on climate change.

“I spent 6 months of my life to get him elected so that he could do something about climate change,” said Hannah Bristol, a young activist for SustainUS.

Amanda from New Jersey talked of her experience of Hurricane Sandy. “Climate change is the issue of our generation,” she said, “We need the president to fight with us. We have not seen that in Doha.”

There was clear frustration amongst this group that a step change in attitudes towards global warming in the US is not reflected in the behaviour of the State Department negotiating team in Doha.

The session was briefly thrown off course by the intervention of Lord Monckton, disguised in Arab headdress.


Wed 1620: As is often the way at this stage of negotiations, press conferences become the source of disorganised scraps of news, as the negotiations themselves become less accessible. What did we learn from Climate Action Network in the session completed a few minutes ago?

First the discouraging bits of news, and no surprises here….

* That the US delegation is the principal blocker on finance. According to Tim Gore of Oxfam, the US “will never discuss a pathway” for ramping up climate finance to the promised $100 billion per annum in 2020. As a result, the whole of the text relating to finance in the workplan for the new 2015 climate change agreement has been bracketed. And there’s no finance text at all in the track relating to the Bali Action Plan.
* That the US delegation (with Canada and Australia) is blocking any progress on Loss and Damage, in particular on the proposal for the establishment of a new International Mechanism on Rehabilitation and Compensation
* That Poland continues to tie the hands of the EU on increasing its 20% pledge on emissions reduction

And the more positive news…

That some European countries are putting cash on the table. The details remain unclear. And that Ban Ki-Moon is working actively behind the scenes and may play a role in the endgame.

This latter point has not generally been the case in previous COPs and might be a deliberate substitution for the shortcomings of the host country (although the speakers from Oxfam, ActionAid and Greenpeace did not say that). They did say that it was vital for the Qataris to have a clear gameplan for the next 48 hours – this means understanding which issues really matter and how a deal might be fashioned.


Wed 1755: A very concentrated press conference with Connie Hedegaard (European Commissioner for Climate Change) and Matthias Groote (head of delegation for European Parliament) just finished. I’ll try to pick out the solid news and maybe do a separate post on the rest.

* Negotiations on the workplan for the 2015 agreement have been suspended. Ms Hedegaard played down the significance of this, suggesting that a new text had been introduced and that smaller delegations had requested more time to consider it
* The Kyoto Protolo text is ready for ministers
* The Bali Action Plan text is in a state that is not manageable for ministers
* The UK funding announcement for post-2012 is regarded as an increase of 40%-50% over its 2010 level
Germany’s announcement of finance (1.8 billion euros) also represents a significant increase over existing levels

It sounds as though the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol might be for the shorter period of 5 years but, only if there is a comparable review break for countries not in the KP.

The European tactic for cancelling unused hot air carbon credits is to construct an alliance of Kyoto participants who will enact legislation which prohibits the purchase of credits.

Additionally, there are still rumours that Japan and Russia may back down on existing pledges for 2020 emissions cuts.


Wed 1900: A few more quick points raised by Connie Hedegaard in her press session an hour ago. Here’s what she stressed most of all:

“For the EU the key thing is to have a balance between all tracks….the Kyoto Protocol is not the only thing on the table…Doha cannot be a success with the Kyoto Protocol alone.”

This is important because the last thing we have at the moment is “a balance between all tracks”. We have one looking good, one suspended and one looking very bad. I don’t get the impression that the KP parties will back down on this point.

One of the bracketed sections of the Kyoto Protocol text relates to the request by some of the ship-jumping countries like Japan to continue to have the right to access the Protocol’s carbon trading/offset scheme. We were told that Europe has an “open mind” on this topic

Ms Hedegaard gave a strong welcome to the Secretary General’s call for a world leader’s summit in 2014. “This shows that they cannot run away from the climate change issue,” she said.


Wed 2125: Is this the long-awaited sign that the White House is listening to the crescendo of angry voices from the Doha COP?

In his allotted three minutes for a speech to the High-Level segment, Todd Stern uttered that phrase we thought would never pass his lips: “common but differentiated responsibilities.” And there’s more.

“Let’s have that discussion,” he said, in the context of “producing a new Durban Platform agreement.”

This is certainly great news but it’s not exactly a backward step. The US conceded the CBDR principle with barely a whimper at the Rio+20 summit earlier this year. And the “Future We Want” outcome document from Rio orders that environmental treaties such as the UNFCCC should be conducted in accordance with their principles.

What this message from the US delegation does signify is that the Doha negotiations will have more space to breathe in the final 48 hours, just as we were all beginning to suffocate.


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