Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Chairman of Qatar's Administrative Control and Transparency Authority and President of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP 18/CMP 8) was visibly ebullient. The Doha Gateway delivered a next step, on time and on budget. See here for a summary of the final text.
It was the first time in several years we can recall the business of the COP being concluded before a Saturday overnight emergency session. With time on their hands, the UN convened a post-conference discussion to raise ambitions, and plan relief concerts for victims of catastrophic weather damage.
Whether US negotiators took the strategy gambit offered them here last week (see The Doha Nuance) or were just swept along with the tide no longer matters. The world’s first international carbon emissions treaty — the Kyoto Protocol — rather than being allowed to expire, as most expected, has been extended and expanded into Kyoto-2. Whether to participate in the carbon-limit regime now becomes an internal debate in the capitals of developing and developed worlds alike, including the US Senate, should the President elect. President Bill Clinton, it must be remembered, never forwarded Kyoto-1 for an up or down vote.
Negotiators have often displayed more ambition than their nations. The US negotiating team in Doha, on the other hand, seemed through the past two weeks to have considerably less ambition than either the public at home or the White House. Called out by Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo and Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, they retreated into mute silence and simply declined questions. Whether they had a role in Kyoto-2’s adoption (even if by igniting reaction to their consistent opposition) remains shrouded in mystery. Their negotiating position seemed to be, “We like what was done last year in Durban (nothing); we’re sticking with that.”
This year, delegates were still looking under sofa cushions for that $100 billion, promised but never delivered, and Kyoto-1 was about to expire, for real, so they ditched the Clinton pledge telethon and put an admission price at the door to a 2-degree warmer world.
The pledge system remains legally in place under the Copenhagen Accord and subsequent COPs, so as a practical matter, Kyoto signatories are being given until 2014 to review their pledges. Those not participating are being detained after school. They have to attend workshops in 2013 to discuss ambition, and tell UN shrinks why they don’t have any. Everyone is anxious to see what lead US negotiator Todd Stern will say. Did the dog eat his homework? Really?
While Kyoto was extended in law, it remains a paper tiger until finance and specific targets are put in place. These negotiations will take until 2015, with implementation thereafter. Germany, China and the UK stood with poor countries and submerging island states and made commitments for Green technology transfer, so development and adaptation can move forward, without fossil fuels or nuclear energy. No excuses there. Korea was given administration of the Green Climate Fund, and Denmark became the first to put real cash into that fund, over the dead body of Canada.
There is nothing in the Doha deal that will keep emissions from going down instead of up. There is nothing to assure that $100 million, never mind $100 billion, will be found for the Climate Fund. There was no solution found for the Hot Air problem, wherein countries who were given low emissions reduction targets at Kyoto in 1997 (Russia and Eastern Europe) but whose emissions imploded as a consequence of economic collapse, were allowed to bank the difference and sell their credits to heavy polluters.
A number of countries in the Doha talks pledged to not buy hot air from Russia, Belarus or Ukraine, and to consider Kyoto-1’s credits now expired. Others were conspicuously silent on the issue.
Extending Kyoto was only a baby step; the reduction target in total is only about 15% of annual global emissions of greenhouse gases. WWF’s Samantha Smith said, “The EU is committed to 20% and they are well on track to do that – they could do that with their eyes closed.” Many countries have more ambitious goals than are likely to emerge from Kyoto-2, even with tweaking, and the real question becomes whether even those more ambitious goals will be enough. The science is not encouraging.
UCS’s Alden Meyer said, “There were some winners here — the coal industry won here, the oil industry won here, the fossil fuel industry won here. This wasn’t an environmental or science-driven discussion, this was a trade fair. This is not the future we need to leave to our children. We know that we need to leave four-fifths of the oil, gas and coal on the planet where it is — underground — that’s the only safe carbon reserve there is.”
|Qatari Youth confronting Climate Change|
What is required, in our humble opinion, is a change of narrative. Viewing economic development and climate change prevention as opposites is not a realistic assessment, much less a viable strategy. The economic story demands reframing. Hurricane Sandy’s damage just to New Jersey was greater than the funding sought in Doha for the Green Climate Fund. In our Post Petroleum Survival Guide (2006) we attempted to reframe peak oil and climate change as a joyous switch to better standards of living. This change is what has been postponed with each missed opportunity, and with each postponement the transition becomes more painful and beset with greater risks.
What does Obama and the US Senate have to fear from Kyoto-2, after all? The hot air credits bestowed on former Soviet countries by Kyoto-1 could easily accrue to the US under Kyoto-2. As its own economy collapses, it could wind up selling hot air to India or Brazil.
So now it’s on to COP-19 in Warsaw, in December 2013, and lets win there.