Durban to Doha’ a road to nowhere?

Fidelis Zvomuya

The International Federation of Red Cross says in 2011, there were 300 climate-related disasters, which affected 207 million people. By 2015, this figure is expected to rise to 375 million people. A mathematical calculation reveals that this will be a 75% increase in the number of people affected by climate related disasters in just three years.

Opening: Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, President of COP 18/CMP 8, addresses participants during the opening ceremony

This shows that the dangers posed by climate change are pushing people to the edge. Africa has seen decades of monster storms and scorching heat. Africa is experiencing the kind of freakish weather that many scientists say will occur more often as the planet continue warming up.

The culmination of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC), 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) talks in Durban, South Africa last year was a complex and mixed outcome with some countries celebrating it as a success whilst other countries and NGOs slamming it as a failure to achieve even a small step forward towards a global solution to the current climate crisis.

As delegates from 194 countries gather to work on a fair, ambitious and legally-binding global climate deal, we’ll be tracking their progress made so far.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres

COP18 is said to be a busy transitional conference, with much on the agenda to resolve and important steps forward being taken toward a long term international agreement. But procedural issues, agenda disagreements and fundamental sticking points could still dominate, leading to a two week impasse.

Judging by previous conferences, the negotiations in Doha will ebb and flow, with progress one day being replaced by bitter discord the next. And in the end, after an all-night session, bleary-eyed delegates will emerge with some kind of face-saving “accord” or “action plan” that keeps the talks alive another year, but does little to address the core problem.

Dubbed “COP 18”, an army of bureaucrats, business people and environmentalists are gathered ostensibly, to limit global greenhouse-gas emissions to a level that scientists say will contain the global temperature rise to 2 degree C, and perhaps stave off global climate catastrophe.

At the core of the process lie three work streams which have evolved over many years. The oldest of these is the discussion on the Kyoto Protocol, which has now been running in one form or another for most of the twenty year history of the UNFCCC.

Discussion on a second commitment period over the past years have embodied the toughest issues in the climate negotiations, such as the role of developing countries in reducing emissions, engagement with North America (neither Canada or the United States will participate going forward) and the need to put a robust price on CO2 emissions.

Sources within the negotiations process in Doha say climate officials and ministers meeting are most unlikely to come up with an answer to the global temperature rise that is already melting Arctic sea ice and permafrost, raising and acidifying the seas, and shifting rainfall patterns, which has an impact on floods and droughts.

“The focus here is on side issues, such as the extension of Kyoto protocol an expiring emissions pact with a dwindling number of members and ramping up climate financing for poor nations,” one source says. Canada, Japan, New Zealand and many more are likely to pull.  The other issue will be on trying to structure the talks for a new global climate deal that is supposed to be adopted in 2015, a process in which American and the new Chinese leaderships is considered crucial.

Next comes the discussion on long term cooperative action, or LCA, a work stream which appeared in 2007 at the Bali COP and is home to a broad range of developments from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), the much discussed New Market Mechanism (NMM) and more recently the Framework for Various Approaches (FVA). It was meant to deliver the grand deal at Copenhagen in 2009 but didn’t and now labours on with many loose ends and partially thought through ideas which have not been implemented or even fully negotiated.

Then lastly is the new kid on the block which some call “the new hope”, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. For some, the parties at COP17 simply kicked the can nine years down the road knowing that little new progress would be made, but for many this represents a much needed and major reboot of the process after years of making almost no progress at all on the respective roles of developed, emerging and developing economies.

We should not over-estimate the importance of a “non-binding agreement to reach a future agreement,” but this is a real departure from the past, and marks a significant advance along the treacherous, uphill path of climate negotiations.

Expectations though are at its lowest in Doha with very minimal activists’ activities, no demonstrations. The media centre virtually empty and some delegates fearing to talk just because of the unavailability of free speech.

During COP15 held in Copenhagen, Denmark, countries adopted the 2-degree target, reasoning that a warming world is a dangerous world, with flooding of coastal cities and island nations, disruptions to agriculture and drinking water, and the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.

Also delegates in Doha will also try to finalise the rules of the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to raise $100 billion a year by 2020. Financed by richer nations, the fund would support poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate that may damage people’s health, agriculture and economies in general.

In addition, countries need to agree on a work plan to guide the negotiations on a new treaty. Without a timeframe with clear mileposts, there’s a risk of a repeat in 2015 when parties are expected to deal with the Kyoto Protocol of the hyped-up but ultimately disappointing climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009.

This entry was posted in African News, South Africa News, World News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply