Forging the future: COP18 and beyond

The year’s biggest climate conference has started in Doha, Qatar earlier this week. There is much at stake as the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end this year with no clear direction

forward in sight. 

The Clean Development Mechanism has seen waning confidence in the past few years.  The ongoing uncertainty over the past couple of years around the regime’s continuation beyond December 2012 has led to limited demand for the generated credits and consequently dragged prices to abysmal low levels.  At a time when most Annex I countries are deferring from furthering their Kyoto Protocol resolutions, the impending Doha conference couldn’t have come at a better time. Despite setbacks during the first commitment period, Kyoto 2 is still very important because it is the only legally binding framework with potential to shape global action.

Who Signs Up?

UNFCCC will push delegates at this year's climate summit in Doha, Qatar, to commit to a so-called second commitment to Kyoto, or Kyoto 2. That would mean developed nations would commit to binding cuts in emissions starting in 2013.  So far only 36 countries have committed to Kyoto 2 and pledged to adopt binding targets going forward - the key ones being from Europe. 

All eyes are on other major players and emitters like the USA, to see if they sign up for Kyoto 2. While nations including Japan, Russia and Canada ruled out new commitments to Kyoto at last year's climate summit in Durban, South Africa, UNFCCC will pressure them to sign on in Doha. Australia may also commit to emission reductions. 

USA has received a lot of brickbats for its climate change policy, or lack thereof, in the recent past. With superstorm Sandy and the re-election of Barack Obama, one hopes to see a more pragmatic and engaged response from the US. As things stand, BASIC countries seem to be opposed to the new treaty unless the principle of CBDR (common but distributed responsibility) is retained in the new treaty and therein lies one of the biggest obstacles at shaping a global treaty.

India’s Stand

India’s oft reiterated stand on equity and common but differentiated responsibility is expected to guide negotiations for the new treaty too. All emerging economies including India and China have urged developed nations to bear the historical brunt of climate deterioration while developing countries will be accountable to reduce emissions according to their level of development. It remains to be seen if India and other developing countries will be able to stick to their guns after the fiasco at the Bangkok Conference in September this year. 

The Panel Report released at the 69th CDM Executive Board Meeting focused on the ways to reform the CDM and save it from collapsing. In doing this, however, the report called for all nations- developing and developed- to increase their mitigation ambitions and use carbon credits to meet their demands. In so doing, the report has challenged Principle 7 of the Kyoto Protocol which calls for the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’. 

Issues at Play

In addition to the principle of equity linked to CBDR, other key parameters likely to influence the outcome of the talks is the decision on credits associated with certain technologies that have been proposed to be banned /phased out – these relate to credits awarded to projects tied to reduction of hydroflourocarbon-23 (HFC-23) and other industrial gases as also ultra-efficient coal-fed power projects.

HFC-23 issue is primarily being contemplated at the behest of EU which has already decided to ban these starting May 2013. Similarly, there has been a call for non-admittance of ultra-efficient coal-fed power projects in countries such as India – while so far the CDM board has rejected such calls, these discussions are likely to be tabled again at Doha.

Another area which developing countries will be battling it out would be on the aspect of international property rights governing clean technology. Restrictive IPR severely raises the costs of clean technology, making it more difficult for developing nations to reduce their emissions and implement low carbon development strategies. The role, nature and availability of international finance is key to moving the needle on this key pre-requisite.

The Leviathan Task of the Green Climate Fund

The recent appointment of Ajay Mathur as the interim head of the Green Climate Fund should be viewed as goodnews for developing nations. The GCF has been setup to enable emerging economies meet their emission reductions while not compromising on their development ambitions. With the home base for the Fund established at Incheon City in South Korea and administrative structure in place,  the focus moves towards the mammoth task of the actual mobilization of the $100 billion corpus. The true test of the Fund’s utility would depend on its ability to make this funding available in the near term to the emerging economies as they seek to integrate green technologies in their national development plans thus paving the way for realistic alignment of diverse strategic interests.  

Qatar holds Climate Talks – Ironic Much?

The most ironic thing about the Summit is that it is being held in oil and energy rich country Qatar- the country which boasts of the highest per capita carbon footprint. Cynicism prevails as the 200 odd countries come together in the eye of the storm to negotiate further agreements on the second commitment period as also make amends on past irregularities and ambiguities. However, all hope is not lost. Businesses have initiated ambitious efforts on climate change mitigation, energy efficiency projects and so on, even in the absence of systematic policy or political consensus regarding the same. With climate change becoming a living reality and the World Bank reports painting dire scenarios about the impact of climate change, it is time to do away with bottlenecks and proceed from intention to action.  

The author Anindita Chakraborty is a part of the Sustainability Outlook Team. 

 Image(s) Courtesy

CECAR - Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation R

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