Doha Climate Change Conference: Talks in deadlock

Updated On: Dec 05, 2012

UN climate negotiators at Doha, Qatar, have hit a deadlock over cash and commitments needed to reduce grenhouse gas emissions, despite new warnings about the dangers of climate change that the world faces.

Halfway through the talks, nearly 200 countries remained distant on issues vital for reaching a global deal on climate change, according to delegates at the talks.

The UNFCCC chief, Christiana Figueres said, 'What gives me frustration is that we are very far behind what science tells us we should be doing.' Nonetheless, she added she retained 'hope'.

Some delegates began to express fears of deadlock ahead of ministerial-level talks which begin on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the head of the International Energy Agency, Maria van der Hoeven, warned on Monday that limiting temperature increases to  2°C "is becoming more difficult and more expensive with every passing year." The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) also said that "time is running out to prevent the loss of entire nations and other calamities in our membership and around the world."

One issue facing the talks is discord within the EU on whether individual nations should be allowed to retain unused greenhouse gas emission quota allowances or what some term as 'hot air'. These are estimated to total about 13 billion tonnes of CO2, and were alloted under the first leg of Kyoto.

EU member Poland and some other countries insist on keeping their tradeable credits into the follow-up Kyoto period, but this is stridently opposed by developing countries and island states who say this will only increase greenhouse gases to hazardous levels.

US leadership held back

At the same time, many countries look to the US for leadership. But the country signed without ratifying the Kyoto agreement in part because developing countries like China, India and Brazil, which are now among the world’s largest emitters, were exempted. 

US Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, told reporters that any new climate treaty must include emissions-cutting commitments from all countries and be scaled to the 2020s, when it would take effect.

At the same time, some doubt if the Obama Administration has the political support at home to significantly alter its climate policies.  Alexander Ochs, an energy and climate analyst with the World Watch Institute, said, "On the one hand, having this high expectation here of other countries that the United States should be  in a leadership role and on the other hand not being able to move more ambitiously to fulfil those targets and those commitments because of domestic resistance."

Jennifer Morgan, who directs the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute, agrees, but expects nations to pressure the US on more action. "I think that the hope is that in a second term, the Obama Administration would become much more ambitious and progressive in these negotiations and build coalitions."

Poor countries call for rich to pay for climate problems

Poor countries also called on developed nations to sign up to deeper cuts in carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol after the treaty's first round of pledges expires at the end of this year. They also insisted that the developed world commit to a new funding package from 2013 to assist them in coping with the impacts of climate change.

Ms Morgan said that funding will be doubtful when Kyoto expires. "There’s no certainty of what will come next.  And of course in these economic times it is a difficult discussion and it’s definitely one that will go until the end game."

Report: Doha climate talks deadlocked [Sky News, 4 Dec 2012]

Report: Amid Gloomy Climate News, Doha Talks Enter Final Week [VOA, 4 Dec 2012]

NGOs call on rich nations to "repair climate damage"

Meanwhile, over 40 civil society groups have called on the developed world to repair the damage done to poor countries through climate change, saying the issue risked becoming "the biggest social injustice of our time" and insisting governments create a "mechanism for compensation and rehabilitation."

In an open letter to cabinet ministers heading for the Doha talks, the NGOs warned that the past year has seen "some of the starkest indicators that climate impacts are unfolding much faster than previously modelled," and that "poor countries and communities least responsible for the global climate crisis are also the most vulnerable."

The letter, signed by bodies like the WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam and ActionAid, states, "Given historic inaction by developed countries, we are heading towards the biggest social injustice of our time."

The rich world, which is responsible for the majority of man-made climate change since the industrial era, must cut greenhouse gas emissions, help poorer nations adapt, and repair the loss and damage they suffered, said the letter.

Report: Rich world must repair climate damage: NGOs [AFP, in Straits Times, 4 Dec 2012]