Image source: COP18 website
Remembering the science
On 10 December 2012, the academic journal Nature Climate Change published research confirming that early predictions of possible temperature increases have proved accurate. The new research reinforces 2007 modelling that suggested that the world is most likely heading for a temperature increase of at least 4 degrees by the end of the century.
Just two days before Nature Climate Change published this article, the President of COP18 noted (with grave concern) that current emissions reduction pledges are not sufficient to keep global average temperature increases to within agreed limits. A new overarching and more ambitious agreement is needed.
Noting with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels,
Recognizing that fulfilling the ultimate objective of the Convention will require strengthening of the multilateral, rules-based regime under the Convention,A new agreement from 2020
With the Kyoto Protocol’s extension now filling the gap from 2013 to 2020, negotiators will focus more heavily on a new agreement to begin in eight years. Countries intend to develop and adopt a fully inclusive and legally-binding global climate change agreement in December 2015, to come into force in 2020. This new agreement, unlike the Kyoto Protocol, will not rely solely on commitments from developed countries; poorer countries will now be part of the solution. Beyond this, not much progress has been made. All the big decisions have all been pushed out to 2013 and later, for example:
- Determining country emission reduction targets: Governments have agreed that workshops on increasing the extent of countries’ emissions pledges (raising their ambitions) will be convened in 2013. In aid of this, countries are to submit information, ideas and proposals to the UNFCCC Secretariat by 1 March 2013. A number of these types of suggestions have already been canvassed (here, here and here).
- The shape and key points of a draft agreement: Parties have agreed that these need to be ready by end 2014 to allow a negotiating text to be drafted by May 2015. Political momentum for this is to be promoted by a gathering of world leaders in 2014 (as announced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon).
Financing was heavily discussed at Doha, but no real progress was made. The Green Climate Fund, first announced in Copenhagen in 2009 as a means of transferring funds from richer to poorer nations for climate change action and adaptation, was finally given a home. It is to be based in South Korea and will begin its work in 2013.
In 2009, developed countries also committed to “fast-start” and “long-term” finance to assist developing countries in the area of climate change. The “fast-start” component was to consist of
…new and additional resources, including forestry and investments, approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010 - 2012 and with balanced allocation between mitigation and adaptation.The “long-term” component is supposed to provide US$100 billion by 2020. At Doha, developing countries called for scaled-up support over 2013-15 to ensure continuity of activities that are already being funded or are in the pipeline. However, only European countries have answered the call and have guaranteed US$6 billion over that period.
Approaching the funding issues from a different tack, developing countries introduced at Doha the idea of a new UN mechanism to provide funding to (a) insure poor nations against unpredictable and extreme impacts of climate change, such as greater frequency and severity of damaging weather, (b) compensate them for the slow effects, such as rising sea levels, and (c) promote new efforts to assess the risks of climate change. Developing nations would like to see this new mechanism high on the agenda in 2013.
What wasn’t achieved?
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (known as REDD+) is still important to many countries and is expected to form part of any future agreement, but progress on that front has been slow. The sticking point is mainly over how to verify emissions reductions. What cannot be measured and verified cannot be counted towards country targets. If it cannot be counted, it is still far off receiving adequate funding.
No decision was made on the Joint Implementation (JI) scheme. The JI, which exists under the Kyoto Protocol, allows developed nations to undertake emissions reduction projects in other developed countries and count the resulting carbon credits towards their own targets. Whether this scheme still exists for projects that start after 2012 is unclear.
Finally, negotiators had hoped to develop some form of new market mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but Doha proved a failure on that front as well. Various proposals had been put forward including the idea of providing carbon credits for emission cuts across entire sectors, or the formalisation of bilateral offset programs. However, the only outcome was a work programme and the intention to continue investigating options.
What will happen at COP19?
The next major forum for climate change negotiators will take place at the end of 2013 in Warsaw. This is the second time in just six years that nations have met in Poland to discuss climate change. The last meeting, in Poznan in 2008, was not highly regarded. It was merely a stepping stone to the COP15 in Copenhagen, which itself was all seen by many as a disappointment. It might be that this 2013 meeting will be just as subdued as Poznan was. The next event with the promise of any real progress may not be until 2014.