2012 UN Climate Talks In Doha, Qatar Face Multiple Challenges
AP | By KARL RITTER 11/25/2012
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — As nearly 200 countries meet in oil-and-gas-rich Qatar for annual talks starting Monday on slowing global warming, one of the main challenges will be raising climate aid for poor countries at a time when budgets are strained by financial turmoil.
Rich countries have delivered nearly $30 billion in grants and loans promised in 2009, but those commitments expire this year. And a Green Climate Fund designed to channel up to $100 billion annually to poor countries has yet to begin operating.
Borrowing a buzzword from the U.S. budget debate, Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries, including island nations for whom rising sea levels pose a threat to their existence, stand before a "climate fiscal cliff."
"So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change," he told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Creating a structure for climate financing has so far been one of the few tangible outcomes of the two-decade-old U.N. climate talks, which have failed in their main purpose: reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels. more
U.N. talks seen falling short despite climate change fearsBy Alister Doyle and Regan Doherty DOHA | Nov 25, 2012
(Reuters) - Despite mounting alarm about climate change, almost 200 nations meeting in Doha from Monday are likely to pay little more than lip service to the need to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions.
A likely failure to agree a meaningful extension of the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding plan for cutting emissions by developed nations, would also undercut work on a new deal meant to unite rich and poor in fighting global warming from 2020.
"The situation is very urgent ... We can no longer say that climate change is tomorrow's problem," Andrew Steer, president of the Washington-based World Resources Institute think-tank, said of the November 26-December 7 talks in Qatar.
Superstorm Sandy had been a wake-up call for many Americans as the sort of extreme event predicted by climate scientists in a warming world, he said, even though individual weather events cannot be blamed on man-made global warming.
A U.N. study last week said the world was on target for a rise in temperatures of between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 9F) because of increasing emissions. That would cause more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels. more
Doha climate talks: what to expectAnother round of climate change talks has every chance of suffering the same fate as the others: stalemate and failure
Fiona Harvey guardian.co.uk, 25 November 2012
• Doha has a special place in the history of diplomacy. Talks started there in 2001 under the World Trade Organisation, aimed at solving trade barriers that penalise the poor. The Doha round dragged on to 2008 without conclusion and is now in limbo. Doha is a byword for stalemate and failure. So when the United Nations chose the Qatari capital as the location for this year's round of climate change talks, starting on Monday, there was a collective groan from greens. There is every prospect these negotiations will suffer the same fate. The history of climate talks is as unpromising as the location – this year, the negotiations "celebrated" their 20th birthday, but after all that talking there is still no global treaty stipulating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and the best governments are now hoping for is to draw up an agreement in the next three years that would not come into force until 2020.
• This year marks the end of the first commitment period of the 1997 Kyoto protocol. But it was never ratified by the US, contains no obligations for developing countries and has been abandoned by others. Kyoto will limp on, as the EU and some developing countries want it, but without an effective new treaty there will be no global resolve to tackle emissions.
Compared with the urgent warnings from scientists – that we are on the edge of a "climate cliff" and only urgent drastic emissions cuts will save us from a world of extreme weather – the less-than-snail's pace of these negotiations looks not just absurd but dangerous. In frustration, some have suggested scrapping the talks. But without them, what mechanism would there be to enjoin all countries, developed and developing, to take the action needed? The UN provides the only forum where all countries have an equal say.
• The fortnight-long talks, which take place each year in the weeks leading up to Christmas, provide little in the way of spectacle, but sometimes stray into bad pantomime. Negotiators spend their days and long stretches of the night locked in technical discussions over such arcana as LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry, since you ask) and the CDM (clean development mechanism, a form of carbon trading). Adjusting the placement of a comma can take hours, and the texts are thick with square brackets, denoting all the terms that have not yet been settled. Only the presence of campaigning groups pulling stunts outside the halls – dressing as polar bears is a favourite, and every day the most recalcitrant negotiator is crowned "fossil of the day" – enlivens the proceedings. This year's accessory of choice looks to be the Homer Simpson mask, imploring governments not to put the "D'oh!" into Doha. (The jokes don't get any better as the talks drag on.) For the final three days, the ministers arrive and the real work begins. Last year, in Durban, the talks ran on past the final Friday night deadline, through Saturday and only finished as dawn broke on Sunday. All that achieved was an agreement to keep talking, setting a deadline of 2015 for drafting a potential treaty.
• While the diplomats dither, time is running out. Global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, having barely registered a blip from the financial crisis and recession. As a world, we are doing worse than ever on climate change, just when we need to be doing better – if emissions do not peak by 2020, scientists have warned, we may lose forever the chance to contain climate change to manageable levels. On current trends, the world is headed for 6C of warming, a level not seen for millions of years and that would cause chaos, according to the International Energy Agency. Fatih Birol, chief economist, says: "I don't see enough of a sense of urgency. We do not have time to waste. We need progress at these talks." Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN environment programme, warns: "While governments work to negotiate a new international climate agreement, they urgently need to put their foot firmly on the action pedal."
• Every conference centre, every hotel the delegates will inhabit, every piece of modern infrastructure in the city of Doha has been built on its oil and gas wealth. This is the first time the talks have been held in an oil-rich Middle Eastern country, and the UN evidently hoped the choice of site would encourage countries that have long been among the most hostile to a climate agreement. Ironically, the Middle East is facing energy issues of its own. The IEA has just forecast that the US will be the world's biggest oil and gas producer within the decade, thanks to the bonanza of shale gas and oil. This will redraw the geopolitical power map, and the economics of energy, and should make for interesting chats among the US and Saudi delegations.
• Barack Obama's re-election stands out as one bright spot. Although climate barely rated a mention during the campaign, even while superstorm Sandy raged, Obama will be looking to his legacy. This year's weather – Sandy, a drought in the US that pushed up food prices, disruption to the Indian monsoon, floods in Europe – was accompanied by some stark warnings. Satellite pictures showed melting across almost the entire Greenland ice sheet. The Arctic sea ice shrank to its lowest recorded extent. As negotiators gather in their air-conditioned conference rooms, they might want to spare a glance for the world outside. You can't put square brackets around the ice cap. more