This is the third installment of a three-part blog post about the ongoing Doha climate talks (COP18). Part 1 recaps the history of the negotiations up to 2011; Part 2 covers this year’s battlelines; and this part outlines my opinion on what should happen in Doha and why it matters.
Most analysts treat Doha as relatively unimportant; they are wrong. Some Australian commentators treat Kyoto 2 as mainly a bargaining chip to get a global regime; they are also wrong. We need to start cutting global emissions now, we need binding targets, and in accordance with the principle of CBDR we need to start by cutting the developed world’s emissions, which means an ambitious Kyoto 2. Doha is crucial because it will decide Kyoto targets for willing rich countries for the next five or eight years. At worst those targets will be locked in until 2020; at best they will become the default pathway with a review process that keeps open the possibility of ramping up ambition later. As the negotiations currently stand, Kyoto 2 is shaping up to lock in meaningless action by Australia and inaction from the EU, further diluted by offsets and surplus permits and land-use creative accounting and who knows what other loopholes. And as for it acting as a bargaining chip, developing countries will not be impressed by unambitious Kyoto 2 targets.
Given the pathetically low ambition of current pledges, the likely outcome of Doha is extremely bad, but there is a glimmer of hope. Durban launched a process which could rescue the climate talks: the workplan on ambition. I agree with the AOSIS position that ambition must be the utmost priority. If all countries agree to raise their ambition in Doha, they should be able to sell that at home.
So far in Doha, ambition has been the most neglected element of the conference. Developed countries tend to prioritize the vision component of ADP. An unnamed European source complained to the Responding to Climate Change news website about AOSIS’s “unwillingness to sacrifice short-term ambition for the long-term common goals of securing a new legal treaty”. In reality, it is extremely misguided to focus on the mirage of a possible future agreement to be implemented when it’s too late. Meanwhile, developing countries other than AOSIS tend to prioritize Kyoto 2 and LCA. While I agree those two tracks should be properly completed, their outcomes will be inadequate without sufficient ambition, so the ambition component of ADP is vital.
So my priorities for Doha are, in the following order:
- Increasing countries’ pledges through the ambition component of ADP before Kyoto 2 targets are decided, ideally by enough to close the gap to <1.5°C
- A binding and enforceable five-year Kyoto 2 that covers as many countries as possible, does not lock in low ambition, and is not sabotaged by loopholes like dubious offset mechanisms, surplus permits, and the Australia clause
- Completion of the LCA mandate, including a shared vision that global emissions will peak soon and clear commitments on climate finance
- If possible bringing forward the implementation date of the vision component of ADP … and a distant
- Planning negotiations for the vision component of ADP
Delegates must not forget why these talks exist in the first place: to cut emissions fast enough to avoid dangerous climate change.