Dec 7, 2012

Doha(rd) 2012: tears as climate summit reaches last day

As the UN's annual climate summit reaches its last day amid endless wrangling and little progress, delegates are looking to pull a rabbit from the hat as global emissions rise. Crikey surveys some people at the talks.

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 UN's 18th annual climate change summit is entering its last day -- and arguably there's not a great deal to show for all 18 of them. Little has been achieved at the summit in Doha, Qatar. In the final hours, sleep-deprived delegates will try to make progress on extending the Kyoto Protocol and on drafting a new, more inclusive and ambitious global greenhouse pact (to take effect from 2020). So far, deep divides over money (rich countries are supposed to pay poor ones to deal with climate change) and who should cut emissions have not been bridged. There have been a few signs of mild progress; the US has been a little more open to action, and some rich countries have put money on the table for climate finance. There are excellent daily summaries here. And for a memorable call to action, watch the Filipino delegate speak in the wake of the devastating typhoon. Here, Crikey asks some of the Australians at the summit for their take on the last days. But first, Lord Christopher Monckton -- who is supported by Gina Rinehart and has toured Australia casting doubt on human-induced climate change -- explains away journalists' "scare stories" on global warming from beside a camel at Doha. He seems to be saying CO2 is increasing, and the world is warming, but it's cheaper to let it happen.

Erwin Jackson, Climate Institute deputy CEO: Among the cruelling hours, side conversations and endless meetings, you sometimes get some good news at the UN climate talks. Today the Dominican Republic, the tiny Caribbean developing country of 10 million people, pledged to unconditionally reduce emissions by 25% below 2010 levels by 2020. This will be enshrined in domestic law. The per capita GDP of the Dominican Republic is around $8,900, compared to Australia’s $38,800 or Qatar’s $98,000. In the negotiations, people are now conceding the process is likely to go well into Saturday. With ministers facilitating discussions, fairly clear options and compromises are within reach on Kyoto talks, finance, and mechanisms to increase ambition to cut emissions. Driven by the trusted Indian and Norwegian co-chairs, the short-term process for the development of the new legally binding agreement is also coming together. However, the Saudi Arabian chair of the negotiations launched at the UN summit in Bali in 2007, continues to produce options that don’t bridge the gap between the views of different countries. This is not a developing vs developed country dilemma; many progressive developing countries also share concerns about the divisions this is creating. With no resolution of this part of the negotiations, it is difficult to move forward more broadly. This is not being helped by the Qatari President’s failure to appoint ministers to address the road blocks in this track of the talks. Inevitably this will happen. But the delay in political facilitation is an acute frustration for many. An agreement is in sight and possible -- but it will take ministers to be fully engaged in taking the clear path to the new agreement in 2015. Until that happens, we will continue, as one delegate put it, to "keep wandering around the desert". Will McGoldrick, policy manager, climate change, WWF-Australia:  A side event at the summit, organised by the Australian government, profiled the work of indigenous communities in the north to reduce carbon emissions from savannah burning. A light-hearted comment by Yawuru man Peter Yu was particularly refreshing: "The rule amongst indigenous land-holders is to never trust a non-indigenous bureaucrat when they say the light is at the end of the tunnel. It’s just the bureaucrat running backwards with a torch". While the end of the Doha summit is definitely in sight, the light at the end of the tunnel remains a little dim. There is still a day of negotiations to go and many issues to be resolved. It looks like the best case scenario is that Doha will deliver some important structural outcomes, but little real progress on the key substantive issues of emission targets and finance for developing countries. At the structural level it is hoped that Doha will launch the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol and end the discussions on long-term cooperative action which began in Bali back in 2007. This will clear the way for negotiators to concentrate entirely on achieving a new treaty by the end of 2015. Deep concerns remain about the speed of the negotiations on emission targets and finance. The key take-home message from Doha is that governments need to re-think their approach to the UN climate talks. If the prospect of a 2015 treaty is to provide a light at the end of tunnel, we need to pick up the pace. Don Henry, chief executive officer, Australian Conservation Foundation: The Filipino Climate Change Commissoner, Naderev Sano, brought tears to eyes at the summit's plenary hall today. He stood in the face of the mounting tragedy of hundreds dead from the massive typhoon, Bopha, as he appealed for the world to find "the courage to find the will to take responsibility for the future we want". He said that the "heart-breaking" tragedies of extreme weather around the world caused by the climate crisis were "the stark reality that we face". I reckon the real story of this climate conference is not what is or isn't achieved here, but what remains to be done in the crucial three years ahead.  All countries have the opportunity to achieve a legally binding agreement.  Time is running out, as dangerous climate change is starting to knock on the door with extreme weather. Crikey took up the suggestion of a reader on a previous story, and contacted business and industry groups to invite them to participate in this story. We asked the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Coal Association, the Australian Aluminium Council, the Australian Plantation Products and Paper Industry Council, and the Australian Uranium Association. None have taken up the offer. Any group who wishes to add their views is welcome to comment on this story on our website.

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2 thoughts on “Doha(rd) 2012: tears as climate summit reaches last day

  1. zut alors

    I thought I’d wasted three minutes of my life until, in the final seconds, Lord Monckton came through with the goods re global warming ie: just let it happen and “adapt to it later…”

    What an original thinker. I’m on the edge of the seat for the next bit where Monckton explains the details of adaptation.

  2. Mark Duffett

    Hmmm, disappointing re the lack of business/industry response, and probably signifying nothing good. Thanks for trying, Cathy.

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