The largest international climate negotiations of the year kicked off Monday in Doha, Qatar, drawing delegates from more than 190 countries in a grand effort to create a global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt climate change.
Worldwide attention is particularly focused on climate after a number of respected and typically conservative global institutions — including The World Bank, United Nations Environment Program, International Energy Agency, PwC — in reports released in the weeks leading up to Doha painted grim pictures of the risks of extreme climate change.
These talks in Doha could see measured progress toward a new global agreement in some areas — or, as The New York Times put it, "the agenda for the two-week Doha convention includes an array of highly technical matters but nothing that is likely to bring the process to a screaming halt."
Environmental Defense Fund anticipates three issue areas could see important progress in Doha:
1) Negotiating tracks
The countries now meeting in Doha are scheduled to finalize a second round of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to cut greenhouse gases, and wrap up the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) negotiating track, which was launched in Bali in 2007 and led many countries to make voluntary emission reduction pledges but fell short of a comprehensive binding agreement.
Doha will also set the course for the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” track, whose goal is a new climate deal for all countries to be agreed to by 2015 and to take effect from 2020.
Countries can make real progress in Doha by agreeing to the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period with minimal fuss and delay, and concluding the Long-term Cooperative Action track, so they can turn their full attention to bringing lessons learned and key policy tools from those agreements forward into the new negotiations.
Even the U.S. founding fathers didn’t get the Constitution right the first time – remember the Articles of Confederation? Countries, in constructing this new agreement, have a chance to incorporate the key elements of these tracks: Kyoto’s binding structure and accountability, and the LCA’s broadened participation among countries and new tools to fight climate change.
2) Climate finance
3) Deforestation emissions
For policies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+), countries have the opportunity to agree that multiple sources of finance can be used to pay for REDD+ reductions, and thereby send another positive signal to tropical forest nations.
REDD+ is almost at the finish line. We need a decision with more direction about how it will be financed, and carbon markets must play a role.
Countries, states making major climate progress
Outside the UN negotiations, countries and states have been busy launching and benefiting from emissions reductions programs. Just since last year’s negotiations:
- Australia’s carbon price has gone into effect
- South Korea and Mexico have passed domestic climate legislation
- China is moving forward with emissions trading pilot programs
- Europe’s Emissions Trading System, which has achieved significant emissions reductions at minimal cost, is about to transition to its third phase.
Here in the United States, California begins its state-wide cap-and-trade system on January 1, and the northeastern states’ regional cap-and-trade system (RGGI) is already cutting emissions while the regional per capita GDP is growing faster than that of the nation as a whole. And a new report shows that the U.S. is on track to reduce its emissions by more than 16 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, thanks in part to these states’ initiatives.
Haverkamp said these moves are all significant:
“A full quarter of the world’s economy – from California to China, Mexico to South Korea – has or is putting in place programs to reduce emission. The top-down UN process is still critical to stopping dangerous climate change, but more and more countries are deciding not to wait around for it to tell them what to do. We’re already in a bottom-up world.”
See related post: REDD+ almost at the finish line: Doha preview