Climate convention struggles for consensus

Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 00:00

Delegates representing more than 190 countries at the United Nation’s 18th climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, were last night making a final effort to achieve an outcome acceptable to all parties.

But there was a consensus among civil society activists that whatever emerged would be “a million miles from where we need to be to even have a small chance of preventing runaway climate change”, in the words of Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South.

Some 200 activists, demanding a solid foundation for the next round of negotiations, occupied a conference hall in Doha’s convention centre for half an hour yesterday afternoon, calling on ministers to reject compromise proposals.

‘Expendable countries’

“We cannot go back to our countries and tell them that we allowed this to happen, that we condemned our own future,” Ms Nacpil said. “We cannot go back to the Philippines, to our dead, to our homeless, to our outrage, and tell them that we accepted this.”

A delegate from the island state of Nauru (population: 9,378) in Micronesia, which is threatened by rising sea levels, asked the conference: “Please, ladies and gentlemen, show me on a map which countries you think are expendable.”

Under the deal agreed in Durban last December, all parties committed themselves to launching a single track of negotiations to conclude a comprehensive, legally binding agreement in 2015, taking effect in 2020, to contain global warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

But last night, delegates were still grappling with a range of contentious issues in four strands of “consultations” facilitated by ministers from Brazil, Norway, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland and South Africa before convening for a final plenary.

Activists blamed this bickering on rich countries such as the US, Canada and Japan for “refusing to sign up for deep cuts” in their greenhouse gas emissions or make firm pledges that significant climate finance would flow to poorer countries.

Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth International also dismissed the the EU’s proposals for a renewal of the Kyoto Protocol. “It’s an empty shell,” he said, adding that “this sham of a deal . . . will lock the planet into many more years of inaction” on climate change.

Passing the buck

The most vulnerable nations, represented by the African Group, the Least Developed Countries and the Alliance of Small Island States, complained that not even the EU, which likes to take the lead on climate change, had increased its target to cut emissions.

With $30 billion (€23 billion) climate finance for developing countries – pledged at the Copenhagen summit in 2009 – running out at the end of this month, there were no indications of how this was to be “ramped up” to the 2020 target of $100 billion a year.

Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the EU Commission pledged to provide nearly €7 billion over the next two years. This was welcomed, but put the spotlight on the absence of any figures from others – particularly the US.