Nov 23, 2012

Doha(rd) 2012: what to expect from climate pow wow

With a major climate summit to kick off in Doha on Monday, Crikey talks to some of the people heading over to find out what to expect.

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

The world's best hope of avoiding runaway climate change starts in Doha, Qatar on Monday. Each year, countries meet under the UN to work towards a deal to keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees. This year's summit runs in Qatar from November 26 to December 7 -- and it's fair to say expectations are pretty low. The Kyoto Protocol expires on December 31 and a replacement deal has not been finalised. It looks like KP Mark 2 will limp along next year, while work continues on the very difficult task of a new, binding treaty to reduce the world's emissions, covering all the big polluters. Crikey will bring you the inside word on the summit over the next fortnight. Today, we ask people who are attending for a preview ... Erwin Jackson, Climate Institute deputy CEO: Doha is an opportunity to focus governments on finalising the binding agreement to cover all major emitters in 2015. Doha is an important moment. If it can streamline the process by implementing new Kyoto targets and closing the political negotiations started in Bali, it has the potential to reduce friction and help build trust between countries for the crucial years ahead. The big issue for Australia will be what new Kyoto target it agrees to. Like other countries, will it reduce emissions and include the possibility to strengthen ambition at a later date? Or will it undermine the credibility of the domestic carbon price and global ambition by weakening Australia’s contribution to global efforts? We won’t really know the prospects for the summit until Thursday December 6, though there will be ebbs and flows in between. International negotiations are like a parliamentary sitting week on steroids and a lot can happen between now and the end of the talks. The Climate Institute has suggested three possible scenarios for Doha -- collapse, business as usual, and focus. Domestic policy momentum in key countries (think China's carbon pricing and the re-election of President Obama), as well collective energy from countries in the talks, offer some prospects for a successful outcome. Don Henry, Australian Conservation Foundation CEO: With the first Kyoto Protocol set to expire at the end of 2012, the upcoming talks to negotiate further action on the climate crisis have a sense of urgency about them. Minister Greg Combet’s announcement on November 9 that Australia will participate in the second phase of Kyoto (as long as certain conditions are met) improves the chances of a strong agreement at Doha. Australia’s involvement in Kyoto 2 can help build momentum towards a new international agreement to cut greenhouse pollution that involves all countries. We welcome the bipartisan support this has received. It sends a clear signal to other countries that Australia is serious about climate action and that agreement in Doha on Kyoto 2 is possible. At the same time in Doha, all countries, including China and the US, will start negotiating a new global agreement to cut greenhouse pollution. This is due for completion in 2015, informed by a new report on the climate science by the world's leading scientists (the IPCC).  The science is becoming more complete that the world needs to act more strongly to avoid the worst impacts of dangerous climate change. The Kyoto Protocol is a stepping stone towards a global agreement. Australia was the last country to ratify the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol. It would be terrific if this time we were the first. Mark Dreyfus, federal Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency: I will lead Australia's delegation, joining 194 countries to start work on a new global climate change agreement that will cover all the major economies, including the US, European Union, China, Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea. The new agreement is due to be formally locked in by 2015. The world is moving and Australia is going to Doha in a good position. Our carbon price has been operating for four months and already we're seeing falling emissions intensity while our economy continues to grow. Australia also stands ready to join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in the clear context that countries are taking action on climate change and there is continued progress on the new agreement. Joining a second commitment period will enable businesses to access international credits under the Clean Development Mechanism. This will help them meet their liability under Australia’s ETS, while providing much-needed investment in clean energy projects in developing countries. The Doha negotiations will continue to consolidate domestic action and international commitments. Ninety countries representing more than 90% of the global economy have already pledged to cut emissions by 2020. And from next year, more than 50 national or sub-national regions are expected to have an emissions trading scheme or a carbon price, covering around 1.1 billion people. This is a massive, collective effort to slow down climate change and Australia will keep working as constructively as possible over the next months and years, at home and abroad, to responsibly manage the challenge that confronts us. Kelly Dent, Oxfam Australia’s climate change policy advisor: 2012 has provided a glimpse into what dangerous climate change looks like -- from severe droughts in east and west Africa, the United States and Mexico, to catastrophic floods in Brazil, Nigeria and China. Yet lack of ambition has the world heading towards 2.5 to 5 degrees of warming this century, enough to wreak havoc for agricultural production and drive millions into hunger. At last year’s UN climate summit in Durban, governments agreed to finalise an effective global climate agreement by 2015 for implementation in 2020. Next week’s negotiations must make real progress towards this goal. Developing countries have been given little confidence that the promised US$100 billion a year by 2020 to assist with adapting to climate change and reducing emissions will be delivered. Financing needs to be scaled up. Developed countries must also agree to reduce emissions in the near term. Developed countries including Australia must adopt the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol -- the legal and political bridge to a new, more ambitious international framework. Governments must agree on the steps to reach a fair, ambitious and binding deal by 2015. Oxfam is seeing vulnerable communities all over the world facing worse droughts, floods, hunger and disease. It's not too late to keep warming within 2 degrees. But we have got to get our act in gear. And fast.

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