View of the Qatar National Convention Centre, venue of the Meeting (photo courtesy of the Qatar National Convention Centre.)
The 2012 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 18) opened today, 26th November 2012 in Doha, Qatar, at the Qatar National Convention Centre, and will continue until the 7th December. Key issues to be dealt with will include the adoption of amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, for the second commitment period. Read on to find out more about the Kyoto Protocol, previous UN climate change conferences and agreements reached.
Most countries favour extending the 1997 Kyoto pact, which is important when considering latest reports that the world was on target for a rise in temperatures of between 3 and 5 ˚C because of increasing GHG emissions. The European Union led the group of countries pushing for an agreement on extending the Kyoto Protocol during last year’s UNFCCC meeting in Durban, South Africa, and managed to persuade the 42-strong Alliance of Small Island States coalition and the 48 least developed countries to back the EU. However, Russia, Japan and Canada have pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol since and whether they will be persuaded to reinstate their backing during COP18 remains to be seen.Since its creation in 1992, the UNFCCC, which sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of GHG to avoid dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, has met several times and these meetings have been much talked about in the media since COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, which was followed by COP16 in Cancún, Mexico, in 2010, and COP17 in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. Besides the main conference which happens once a year towards the end of the year, groups from the convention meet a few times in between to deal with issues as a result of the main meetings or in preparation for the main annual meeting.
In Copenhagen, no formal deal was agreed during the formal meetings, but after 13 hours of debate during informal negotiations between groups comprising major economies, the “Copenhagen Accord” was drawn and delegates agreed to “take note” of the accord, which eventually gained the support of 140 countries during 2010. Probably the best thing to come out of the accord is that over 80 countries have provided information on their national mitigation targets or actions to the UNFCCC as a result of the accord.
The ‘Cancún Agreements' resulted from the Cancún talks, which recognised GHG emission reduction targets for industrialized and developing countries and countries recognized the need for deep cuts in global emissions in order to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C. Parties agreed to keep the global long-term goal under regular review and to consider strengthening it during a review by 2015, including in relation to a proposed 1.5°C target. They took note of emission reduction targets and nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) communicated by developed and developing countries. However, the most significant element of the Cancún Agreement was the pledge of US$30 billion in fast start finance from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the intention to raise US$100 billion in long-term funds by 2020 are included in the decisions.
In Durban, the conference talks over-run by 36 hours, and at the end of the sometimes heated exchanges between the EU, on one side, and India and China on the other about the extension period for the Kyoto Protocol, the Brazilian delegation saved the day by suggesting a compromise, which resulted in the EU and India agreeing on a 'roadmap', which commits countries to negotiate either a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force. A deal was finally agreed in Durban to push for a new climate treaty, but was it a good deal? In the words of Greenpeace's Chief Policy Advisor Ruth Davis "this deal is a lot better than no deal."
Will Russia, Japan and Canada be persuaded to reinstate their backing of the Kyoto Protocol during COP18? Let's hope so! Let's also hope that the recent signs of the effects of climate change, such as the devastation of hurricane Sandy, the drought in the USA that pushed up food prices, the disruption to the Indian monsoon, the melting of much of the Greenland ice sheet, the shrinking of the Arctic sea ice, and recent floods in Europe will give the COP 18 negotiators a sense of urgency to come up with real measures to reduce GHG emissions.
Link to pertinent websites for following the UNFCCC conference progress are given below. A small selection of articles are also included, selected from a total of 88 articles from the CABI internet resource Environmental Impact, obtained from a search using the terms "climate change" and COP.
Williams, I.; Coello, J.; Kemp, S.; McMurtry, E.; Turner, D.; Wright, L. (2012). The role of business and industry in climate management after Durban. Future Science Ltd, London, UK, Carbon Management, 2012, 3, 5, pp 431-433. DOI/abs/10.4155/cmt.12.51
Schroeder, H.; Lovell, H. (2012). The role of non-nation-state actors and side events in the international climate negotiations. Taylor & Francis, Abingdon, UK, Climate Policy, 2012, 12, 1, pp 23-37, 41 ref. DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2011.579328
Huntingford, C.; Lowe, J. A.; Gohar, L. K.; Bowerman, N. H. A.; Allen, M. R.; Raper, S. C. B.; Smith, S. M. (2012) The link between a global 2°C warming threshold and emissions in years 2020, 2050 and beyond. Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol, UK, Environmental Research Letters, 2012, 7, 1, pp 014039, 39 ref. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014039