Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Doha: Success or failure?

Dhanesh Wisumperuma 

The Nation, 16-12-2012, Features p. 11


Representatives of nearly 200 countries of the world gathered at Doha, the capital of Qatar for about two weeks to discuss about the future of the world. This event was the climate change conference concluded on December 8, and it is not extreme to state that the climate change is to determine the world’s future or the state of the future world. The climate change is so serious and action is so slow, as the scientific research shows; the problem is with the lack of political will and the slow pace of the talks.

What happened in Doha? That is a question worth asking. It is clear that no one hoped for miracles in Doha. The climate change summit of 2011, held at Durban agreed that there will be no major treaty, which can save the world from serious consequences of the climate change, before 2015. Hence the expectations of Doha Summit were much limited. However, there are some positive developments, but the problem of the pace seems to continue.

Extended Kyoto Protocol

A development highlighted by the media (specially the European media) is the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It is the only existing pact that is active to reduce greenhouse gases, which causes global warming, and in a wider context, climate change. Under the first commitment period, which ends in this December, industrial nations have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% of the 1990 level. Some have achieved it but some countries have not, while some high emitters like the USA stayed away from the protocol. Australia joined it at a later point.

At this situation, the second commitment period is essential until a wider treaty is established with the participation of all more countries, maybe the entire world. It was agreed that this second phase of the Kyoto Protocol to be started in January 2013 and end by December 2020. However, with the withdrawal of Canada, Japan and Russia, the countries that participate in the second phase are responsible for 15% of the global emissions. The countries have promised to reduce the gases in varying amounts, which is to be reviewed in 2014. It is doubtful that a reduction of greenhouse gases from 18% of 1990 level (a figure discussed) in these countries may save the world from the worst impacts of global warming can say it will not.

Scientific research has repeatedly shown that this emission reduction is no way near the required level to avoid serious impacts of climate change. The required rate of emission reduction should be between 50-80% as many say.

Compensating poor countries

Another agreement that was achieved in Doha was the acceptance of rich countries for the loss and damage caused by climate change in developing countries. This is quite important because the widely accepted historical responsibility of global warming lies with the rich, developed and industrial nations. It was their emissions that caused this havoc, it is their rich and over consumption oriented lifestyles that causes the rise of the temperature. Hence the decision to pay for the damages and loss caused in poor nations is a move towards climate justice for these poor countries who are to suffer.

This could be taken as a shift in climate policies, as mentioned by some media. For many years developing world was discussing about this. So far the rich nations were willing to support in providing technical assistance for adaptation and for mitigation measures. For the first time, they have agreed to support the poor nations for the loss and damages caused by climate change. No financial measures were agreed, but it seems that no new funds will be allocated and this will be included in the package of the already pledged $100 billion annual allocation to be financed after 2020.

A long-term solution

Need of the day is clear enough. There should be stricter and considerable reduction of green house gases to avoid a serious climate crisis.

The concentration of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, stands about 390.9 parts per million, all time high since the industrial revolution during the 18th century. This is a rise of about a 140% increase since the industrial revolution and it continues to increase. This is the result of the so called development and it is clear that firm action is required to change the trend.

A wider treaty is proposed as a solution for the crisis and it is hoped that it could contain large reductions of greenhouse gases. It is to be agreed by 2015 and the discussions are going on. It was agreed at Doha that a “firm timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015” and also hinted of some action for the pre-2020 period. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his willing to convene a meeting of the world leaders in 2014, to raise the ambition among the leaders.

However, as agreed in Durban last year, this new treaty will be implemented in 2020 only. Under this, all countries will have to reduce their emissions and may be on the basis of common but shared responsibility.

Speeding up

The entire process for a substantial solution is a slower one. World might be losing time. The result will be the serious impacts of climate change, including a warming more than two degrees Celsius. This figure is important as many scientists have pointed it as the safe limit. However, scientific evidence supports the view that we, or the future generations, are to experience this with those serious consequences. The most unfortunate fact is the nature of the victims – most of the sufferers will be the people who have contributed lowest to the global warming, i.e. the poorest communities in the developing world.

The message from Doha is clear. As other rights, environmental rights seem to be still neglected by world leaders.

A quotation from the Lead Negotiator of the Philippines, Naderev Saño is worth to end this small write up: “…If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”

Who knows of this date (hope it is 2015), but let’s not lose the momentum. Public also has a responsibility to continue the fight to save the world and avoid dangerous climate change.

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