Civil groups say little leadership at Doha talks


With just one day to go, the UN’s 18th climate conference is “on the brink” and could be heading for a “zombie outcome” without real political leadership to resolve outstanding issues, civil society groups warned here yesterday.

There is also widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of the conference president, Qatar deputy prime minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, over his perceived failure to “knock heads together” and drive it to a successful conclusion.

Leaders of ActionAid, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Oxfam and the World Wildlife Fund joined in the call on ministers to rescue the talks by paving the way tothe next negotiation round.

Their appeal was strongly endorsed by Naderev Saño, head of the Philippines delegation, who said he was “deeply concerned about the status of the negotiations”, adding: “We have few precious hours left to address the climate crisis.”

Yet at the Doha conference, ambition to tackle climate change – particularly on the part of several rich countries – remained elusive. “If we don’t do it here, when will we do it?” Saño asked, to widespread applause from supporters.

Slow progress

German environment minister Peter Altmaier also expressed concern about the slow progress and pledged to “fight till the very last minute” for a successful outcome. But he added: “We cannot send troops to reinforce what we think is important.”

He said the EU was putting pressure on the conference president – aided, if necessary, by ministers from different regions – to resolve technical issues overnight, so the “hard core of political negotiations” could get under way today.

Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International, explicitly identified the US as the “main stumbling block” and said he had written to President Barack Obama urging him to recall chief American negotiators Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing.

On the critical issue of providing climate finance for poorer countries, Pershing had said the US was “doing what we committed to do” by providing its share of “fast-start” aid over the past three years and working to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020.

Yesterday , chief Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua welcomed pledges of more aid from Britain, Germany and Switzerland, saying there had been “some progress”. But the US needed to indicate what it would provide over the next seven years.

Conceding that several countries had “some economic difficulties”, Xie said “this is only temporary”. The US “also agreed to mobilise funding, but the level is still not enough. They need to scale up as well [because] we’ll need $1 trillion [€800 million] for adaptation”.

US obstruction

Steve Herz, attorney for the Sierra Club – the largest American environmental body – said the US was “blocking some of the discussions on the long-term work programme [and] not showing the kind of change we expected after Obama was re-elected.”

Emmanuel Dlamini, chair of the African Group, said: “I always expect Americans to be accountable for what they say. When we don’t see them providing the necessary leadership, it creates some difficulty.” But EU negotiator Matt Kennedy, of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, said agreement was close on establishing a climate technology centre to assist developing countries in deploying “low-carbon, climate-resilient adaptation and mitigation technologies”.