Divisions to hamper Doha talks

Updated: 2012-11-26 08:33


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DOHA - The new round of UN climate talks, slated to open on Monday in Doha, Qatar, will not go smoothly unless the developed and developing countries bridge their gap on the upcoming Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period.

At the end of this year, the landmark protocol is going to see the expiration of its first commitment period, which requires industrialized countries to slash carbon emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

However, some controversial legal and technical questions were left unanswered in Durban, South Africa, last year and need to be urgently addressed in Doha.

Meanwhile, the double-track process -- meaning two working groups respectively under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, has almost run its five- year course since the Bali Roadmap was approved in 2007.

Some outstanding issues left on the process are likely to be handed over to a new mechanism produced at the Durban talks, dubbed Durban Platform.

Against this complex backdrop, negotiators in Doha are faced with the pressing task of charting the course for the future global anti-warming efforts.


Whether the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol can be launched on time -- Jan. 1, 2013 -- is key to the success of the Doha talks, while the destiny and effectiveness of this period lie in the negotiating results in two areas, namely who will participate and how committed they will be.

As a major emitter, the United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, nor will it be any part of its second commitment period.

Commenting on this, Su Wei, deputy chief of the Chinese delegation to the Doha conference, said although US President Barack Obama signaled some positive message regarding fighting climate change after the re-election, the US position is unlikely to make a big change in Doha.

In addition to the United States, Canada has withdrawn from the accord, while Japan and Russia have said they are not interested in joining the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Among the parties that are willing to extend the accord, the EU has pledged to cut emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, although a more ambitious 30-percent cut is said to have been put off the table. Also, Australia has changed its former rejecting stance and pledged to join the second commitment period.

Su said although there are some positive signs, the pledged cuts still fall short of what is needed to cap the temperature rise by 2 degrees Celsius -- cutting the emission levels by 25-40 percent below the 1990 levels, as recommended by the 4th report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"The key to the launch of the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period is whether the developed countries can make substantive and sufficient cuts; this issue trumps the length of the mandate, which developed and developing countries also divide on," Su said.


According to agreements struck in Copenhagen and Cancun, developed countries shall provide developing countries with extra financial aid to help them fight and adapt to climate change. This initiative was subsequently developed into the Green Climate Fund.

According to the plan, $30 billion dollars would be raised during 2010-2012 as the Fast Start finance, and 100 billion dollars would be raised each year by 2020.

As the end of 2012 nears, the Fast Start program still falls short of its promise, Su pointed out, adding that there is also a lack of transparency in terms of the actual amount of money being paid in.

Media reports have said that Japan had committed 15 billion dollars to promote clean energy in the developing world in 2010- 2012, half the overall total of the Fast Start scheme. Also, the EU is said to have committed around nine billion dollars.

However, there simply is not an effective and sure way to verify the actual donation that has already been made, Su said.

"Even if we have any assurance for the 2010-2012 period, we have no financing ensured from 2013 onwards."

"Fund raising and distribution after the year 2012 is expected to top the agenda of the discussions in Doha," Su said. "In the wake of the current global economic woes, persuading developed countries to contribute is no easy job."


The double-track negotiating process is set to expire soon, giving way to the Durban Platform which is expected to develop before 2015 a legal instrument applicable to all UNFCCC parties concerning anti-climate-change efforts after 2020.

As the platform, formally ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, was a product of compromise coming out in the extended hours of the conference, it is lacking in specification on its details.

Some rich countries seem to be dragging on in the climate talks on the double-track process and attempt to pile the unresolved issues onto the Durban Platform, where they seek to forsake some core elements installed under the UNFCCC.

They particularly want to abandon the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," which obligates them to make deeper cuts than poor countries and aid their anti-climate-change efforts.

These countries argue that emerging economies will grow into strong powers and major emitters after 2020, and thus the distinction between the developing and developed countries' responsibilities should not hold.

Therefore, negotiators in Doha are likely to wrangle over this issue. Whether they can bridge their divergence will largely determine if they can have smooth and effective talks on the Durban platform.