Outcomes and shortcomings of COP 18, Doha

by Katinka Waagsaether

COP 18 took place in Doha, Qatar, in 2012.

The complexity of the negotiations and the disparity of messages reflected in media can make it difficult to get a real sense of the outcome of the international climate change negotiations. Without going into the nitty gritty technicalities and details, this article is an attempt to provide an overview of some of the decisions and outcomes from the 18th Conference of the Parties, which took place in Doha towards the very end of 2012.

With regards to mitigation, an important aspect of the Doha negotiations was that the Kyoto protocol, which sets binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries over the period 2008-2012, did not die. Instead, the Kyoto protocol was given another 8 years, with new carbon-cutting targets that will run to 2020. The bad news is that the agreement to take on another 8 years under the Kyoto protocol was only joined by EU, Australia, Norway and a few other developed countries, which altogether only account for 15% of global emissions. Canada, Japan, Russia and New Zealand, as well as the US, which never signed the Kyoto protocol in the first place, are thus not committing to any new targets under the extended protocol.

Then plan is then for an entirely new global climate treaty to be signed in 2015 and to come into effect in 2020. While still a contested issue, the treaty will be negotiated under a new climate regime, where for the first time both developed and developing countries will make legal commitments. Rather than negotiating along different working groups that were based on the distinctions between developed and developing countries, political negotiations will now be through a single group, the Ad hoc working group on the Durban Platform (ADP). The ADP is still in a conceptual phase, and while a schedule of events has been identified the working group does not yet have a detailed work plan.

Having been, as some may say, bullied into agreeing to negotiate legal commitments to emission cuts under the new climate treaty, one would have thought that developing countries were at least seeing clearer and more tangible commitments on climate finance from developed countries. Yet this does not seem to be the case. At the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 developed countries pledged to mobilize $100 billion climate finance per year by 2020 to help the poorest countries deal with climate change. The fast-start funding of about $10 billion a year ended in 2012, and while the notion of ‘medium-term finance’ emerged, Doha failed to deliver any credible pathway for how to get from $10 to $100 billion. Other than the EU countries’ pledge of €7 billion over the next two years, there was little mention of specific numbers and thus very little real money on the table for developing countries.

The pledge from rich countries that poor nations will receive funds to repair “loss and damage” from climate change and the agreement of a work programme on “Loss and Damage” is seen as a success by many. Yet, developed countries never came close to admitting any legal liability, with any hint of liability and compensation creating sharp reactions. What is more, key questions, regarding where the “loss and damage” funds will come from and how they will be disbursed, remain unanswered.

Though opinions will vary, a suitable conclusion for the South African adaptation community may be found in the comment made by the WWF head of delegation to COP18, South African Tasneem Essop, “The Doha decision has delivered no real cuts in emissions, it has delivered no concrete finance, and it has not delivered on equity.”

This article is based on the following articles: