14 feb. 2013

Conclusions from COP18: Climate Justice Still Far Away

Since the COP15 that took place in Copenhagen in 2009, global environmental politics have seen a definite downturn. This of course was intimately connected to the global recession that has affected us all in some way, shape or form.

In 2007 a deadline was set to have a second commitment period developed for all nations by 2009. This process was a total fiasco. As a result a second commitment period was finally agreed to in Doha—3 years after the established deadline. Unfortunately, Canada, Japan, Russia and New Zealand decided to pull out of the Annex I group (i.e. developed nations with legally binding emissions cuts) and the group now  includes EU, Australia, Switzerland, Ukraine and Norway, which only equals about 15% of global emissions!

At COP17 in Durban in 2011, these countries announced conditional pledges which depended on whether the rest of the developed world took on any commitments. As the United States remains outside the protocol and others left, this meant they all decided to go for their lowest commitments. In the case of the European Union that meant a 20% reduction instead of 30% reduction of emissions compared to the levels of 1990, for Australia it meant a 0,5% reduction instead of 1, 5 or 15% reduction.
Again, this kind of commitment is far from what is needed to reach the official target of the negotiations to limit climate change to a 2 degrees Celsius rise in average global temperature. On top of that, it was agreed that the second protocol period would be lengthened from 5 to 8 years.

One of the reasons for this new deadline was due to the fact that all nations also had agreed in Durban at COP17 to establish a new universal treaty in 2015, that would come into force in 2020, as a direct successor to the first Kyoto Protocol. Thus nations decided to lengthen the current period to 2020. There will be a review of commitments in relation to how much they limit climate change with a potential to increasing the commitments in 2014/15 if nations deem it politically necessary. We already know it is scientifically necessary.

Currently, nations are working towards this new 2015 agreement from COP17 called the Durban Platform.

But a big question remains: If this new Durban Platform agreement is as ambitious as the one established in Copenhagen in 2009, yet that one missed the 2-year deadline by three years, can we expect there to be more action and less talk in implementing it?

It is a hard question to answer. At COP18 negotiations dragged on beyond its Friday deadline. They went through the night and finished Saturday afternoon with the President of the conference adopting the texts as the conference outcome without listening to Russia or Ukraine who were still were trying to voice objections and block a conclusion. All decision-making in these conferences is supposedly based on consensus, yet the President ignored this so a decision finally could be passed and the conference come to an end.

Due to the low commitments (or in some cases, no commitments) made by the developed nations and non-existent leadership coming from the Gulf countries (the host, Qatar, has the world's highest emissions per capita), there is a widening chasm of distrust between developed and developing nations. This we know bodes very poorly for the future talks.

We live in paradoxical times. Even while island nations face severe storms and floods (the Philippines, for example, just suffered the consequences of a massive hurricane that left at least 3000 dead and 40000 displaced. You can watch the heart-wrenching statement read by their negotiator here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpI-PD6weG8) and Africa faces droughts, the world continues to raise living standards in ways that cause more emissions. Little is being done to accommodate living standards in a way that will lower emissions worldwide so that our development can truly be called "sustainable".

Mary Robinson, former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who spoke to us youth in Doha, also recently gave a talk on Climate Justice at my university in Scotland. She emphasised that today those who emit the least are affected the most and that those who are the poorest bear the greatest costs. Climate Justice gives those nations a right to development, and the rich nations a responsibility to stop emitting and damaging the Earth, which they have for soon two hundred years already.
But for the moment, that justice is still far away.

8 dec. 2012

From Qatar: Final Video Update

Some goodbye videos from the last day we were at the conference centre. The conference closed Saturday afternoon yesterday. In the near future we will post some comprehensive updates on what really happened during the last 24 hours of negotiations, which were quite dramatic and very strained as parties had been up negotiation for hours on end. Negotiators reportedly came out of the closed session in tears. Upon the opening of the final plenary, the President started hammering the final texts through without waiting for comments, disregarding the need for consensus and making Russia furious. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was signed, but more on this and the rest of the updates in the near future!

Our recording devices have become less and less professional as people have left and battery has been lost. The last two were recorded by a mobile phone, but bear with us, what is said is still the important part!

As Talks Drag On

In the middle of the night, as talks drag on, youth stand in solidarity with developing nations. Their red lines cannot be allowed to be crossed.