As preparations for the 18th meeting of the Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 18) get under way, stakeholders and experts are weighing in their views, with some expressing a need for a revamp of the existing system and some expressing pessimism regarding the talks.
The conference begins on 26 November in Doha, Qatar, and will run until 7 December. Once again, negotiators will try to reach a broad agreement on dealing with rising global temperatures, which has been hard to come by.
In 1997, parties adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to legally bind developed countries to specific emission reduction targets. The protocol’s original commitment period was supposed to end this year. Last year, negotiators agreed to extend it, possibly by either five or eight years, a figure that has yet to be decided.
The second phase of the Kyoto Protocol is expected to proceed but with fewer nations compared to the number that agreed to reduce emissions in the original 1997 deal. The US signed but never ratified the agreement due to obligations not being imposed on large developing economies like China, India and Brazil. More recently, Japan, Russia, Canada and New Zealand have indicated they will not sign up to a second commitment period.
According to Brazil's lead negotiator, Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, said the delegates should prioritise an extension of the Kyoto Protocol and the rules for a longer-term agreement rather than be distracted by the important but contentious issue of emissions reductions.
Report: Trees Stand Tall Against Climate Change [VOA, 16 Nov 2012]
Report: Doha conference: carbon cuts talks must wait, says key negotiator [The Guardian, 15 Nov 2012]
Climate talks need change
Researchers also pointed out that countries should cap the size of delegations to the climate change talks and use majority voting to revamp negotiating rules that inhibit progress to the detriment of the poorest nations. The talks to widen limits on emissions have been unable to produce a formula acceptable to both rich and poor countries.
Limiting the delegates per nation would be a step towards greater fairness, the researchers from the University of East Anglia, the University of Colorado and PricewaterhouseCoopers wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.
According to the researchers, Brazil sent a record 600 delegates to the Copenhagen conference in 2009, while many of the poorest countries cannot afford to send more than a handful of delegates and thus have less influence on the talks.
Meanwhile, studies show that developing nations, most reliant on the agricultural sector, are most at risk from climate change.The researchers, calling current UN structures "highly unequitable", suggested that a shift ot majority voting could pave the way in unlocking progress at the negotiations, where decisions on climate change mitigation are currently made by consensus.
Nonetheless, many countries oppose majority voting as it would limit their influence over decisions to cut emissions that could cost trillions of dollars in the next decades.
The Doha delegates will review progress towards a global deal to slow climate change, meant to be reached by the end of 2015 and enter into force in 2020.
Report: Glacial-paced U.N. climate talks need overhaul: researchers [Reuters, 18 Nov 2012]
Pessimism about Doha conference
Experts are not expecting much from the Doha conference. The most they are hoping for is a renewed commitment to reach agreement in 2015 about environmental standards that would take effect five years later.
Experts said an agreement with universal standards, transparency and incentives to use new technologies could finally begin to reverse climate change effects. But they are concerned about whether political will exists to do so, and how many more people will have to bear the impacts from climate catastophes before the process even begins.
The director of the Climate Change Institute at London’s Imperial College, Brian Hoskins, said the key to generating support for policy changes may be when climate change-related events happen more often, and more severely, in influential countries.
“There is a tendency to think that disasters might happen in Bangladesh, but they would not happen in New Orleans or New York. But they have happened in New Orleans and New York. We see that however advanced we think we are in terms of development, we are still very dependent on the environment,” said Mr Hoskins.
Report: Experts Not Hopeful About Doha Climate Conference [VOA, 19 Nov 2012]
World Bank warns of catastrophic 4°C increase
Meanwhile, World Bank-commissioned report, released just before the Doha conference, warns that the world is on track to a 4°C temperature increase by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction obligations.
According to the report, such a scenario would entail severe heat-waves, dwindling global food stocks, ecosystem and biodiversity losses, as well as life-threatening sea level increases. It further warns that the impacts of climate change are “tilted against many of the world's poorest regions, and could derail global and national development goals.
"A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. The report further highlighted that "increased support for adaptation, mitigation, inclusive green growth and climate-smart development" are needed to prevent the 4°C scenario.
Report: Climate Change Report Warns of Dramatically Warmer World This Century [World Bank, 18 Nov 2012]