Doha climate conference closes on 'weak deal' unlikely to stem emissions


After marathon negotiations at the weekend, the UN’s 18th conference on climate change in Doha, Qatar, finally produced an agreement that would see the Kyoto Protocol continuing for a further seven years.

But the deal was denounced by climate activists as inadequate to contain global warming at 2 degrees Celsius, given that greenhouse gas emissions are likely to hit another record level this year.

Alden Meyer, director of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said the impact of the deal – officially dubbed the “Doha Climate Gateway” – on reducing actual emissions to the atmosphere would be minimal.

‘Abysmally weak deal’

“This meeting failed to deliver the goods,” he said. “At the end of the day, ministers were left with two unpalatable choices: accept an abysmally weak deal, or see the talks collapse in acrimony and despair – with no clear path forward.”

Although there will be a “second commitment period” for Kyoto, extending it to 2020, it will only include EU member states, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and a few other countries. Japan, Russia, Canada and New Zealand are not taking part.

Neither is the US, which spurned ratifying the protocol in 2001, or major developing countries such as India, as the protocol only applied to developed nations. As a result, “Kyoto 2” will relate to less than 15 per cent of global emissions.

The two-week round of talks in Doha, involving high-level delegates from 194 countries, ended on Saturday night when the compromise texts were gavelled through peremptorily by conference president Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah.

He overruled a last-minute objection by Russia, which was unhappy that its concerns had not been addressed. US climate envoy Todd Stern also made it clear he rejected one element of the deal, relating to “equity”, but he didn’t press the issue.

China’s Xie Zhenhua said though he was “disappointed in certain respects” about the outcome, he was ready to accept it. He maintained it proved “the multilateral process in dealing with climate change is making progress”.

Brazil described the renewal of Kyoto as the “key success” of Doha, but said the lack of ambition of developed countries was “undeniable” and their commitment to provide financial aid to enable poorer countries cope with climate change “remains elusive”.

US blamed

Activists squarely blamed the US for working to prevent any commitment by developed countries to “ramp up” their collective provision of climate finance from current levels of $10 billion a year towards the target of $100 billion in 2020.

“The Obama administration is succeeding in its efforts to dismantle the UN global climate regime and other wealthy nations have joined in, paralysing the climate talks and forcing the world’s poor to pay the price,” said Asad Rehman, of Friends of the Earth.

Tim Gore, of Oxfam, said Doha had done nothing to guarantee that public climate finance would go up next year, not down: “Developing countries have come here in good faith and have been forced to accept vague words and no numbers. It’s a betrayal.”

Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network Europe, said rich countries had cited the economic crisis as a reason to avoid paying climate finance “while billions of dollars in damages rack up from monster storms” like Hurricane Sandy.

Sharan Burrow, of the International Trade Union Confederation, said: “What millions of people experienced this year is that fighting climate change is now extremely urgent. Every year counts, and every year in which governments do not act increases the risk to us all.”

Doha 2013: What was decided

The Kyoto Protocol on climate change, due to expire on December 31st, was given a new lease of life for seven years – even without the participation of Canada, Russia, Japan and New Zealand.

The EU stuck to its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in member states by 20 per cent by 2020, but this will be reviewed in 2014 to see if it could be “more ambitious”.

Renewal of the protocol by the EU and others, including Australia, Norway and Switzerland, was seen as as an essential bridge to a more comprehensive agreement, due to be finalised in 2015.

A standing committee on finance for developing countries is to be established, but no collective figures were agreed or ways and means of reaching the target of $100 billion a year in aid by 2020.

Several developed countries – including Britain, France, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland – made pledges to provide a total of nearly €7 billion in “climate finance” over the next two years.

The “technology mechanism” of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has become fully operational, with a Climate Technology Centre to be set up to help developing countries.

Work on “REDD+”, a programme to reduce emissions from deforestation, is to be finalised at the next UN climate change conference in Warsaw towards the end of 2013.