Monday, November 26, 2012

COP18 - Climate Change Conference Kicks Off in Doha

Today sees the start of the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Doha, Qatar. Between now and the 7th of December 7,000 official delegates, 7,000 representatives from non-governmental organisations and 1,500 journalists will descend on Doha, Qatar’s capital, to try to establish a climate change agreement. More than 190 countries will send representatives to the talks.

The COP18 in Qatar builds on previous climate summits. Companies and countries who want to continue emitting noxious gases into the atmosphere, causing the climate to heat up, will be working to stall a new agreement, while environmentalists and other countries will push for tougher emissions targets.

Most scientists and many governments agreed in 2012 that an increase in the global temperature must be limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius in order to avoid catastrophic "run-away" climate change. That goal seems unlikely.

At the COP18, the eighteenth climate summit, key goals include extending the 1995 Kyoto Protocol - which was designed to bind signatories to emissions reduction targets - past 2012 when it expires.

Nick Nuttall, spokesperson of the United Nations Environment Programme, said there should be two tangible outcomes from Doha. The first would be the finalisation of how and when the Green Climate Fund will be financed. The second would be a network of green centres of excellence to bring expertise to countries to help them develop sustainably, when they would otherwise not be able to afford and access the required skills.

The Green Climate Fund is a huge political issue. The end aim is to have $100-billion a year in the fund by 2020. To kick-start it $30-billion was to be available between 2010 and now. To date all that has happened has been an agreement that it will be headquartered in South Korea.

Rashmi Mistry, the climate change advisor at Oxfam, said, "The major need for countries like South Africa is financial backing for climate change projects." But despite commitments from the rich world, she said the fund will remain empty when the two-year period ends.

In a major discussion document on its plans for Doha, the UK government said it was important for the rich world to increase its ambitions for lowering its carbon emissions by 20% to 30% by 2020. It also said that it was critically important for the EU to work with the Brics countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) to create an equitable agreement on who does what and who pays.

The first week of Doha is about thrashing out details and plans. The second week will see the big political players arriving to rubber stamp any agreements. And this year the question will be whether Barack Obama will come to give increased support after he promised to champion climate change issues.

More Information: Has the Kyoto Protocol made any difference to carbon emissions? 

Photo courtesy of IHA Central Office via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)