Speaking to EurActiv during the Doha COP18 summit, Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency said that he would be happy with two outcomes. “One would be if the negotiations led to a second climate change [agreement]that still belongs to the top part of the intensive policy agenda. Secondly, we have about $520 billion dollars of fossil fuel subsidies today and about half of them are coming from the Mideast countries. I consider fossil fuel subsidies to be the public enemy number one in the fight against climate change, and I hope that the countries in the region where these emissions take place will have a better understanding of the role of fossil fuel subsidies in using energy inefficiently and leading to higher carbon use emissions. In the end, it is the only hope or expectation that I have.”
Yvo de Boer, the former UNFCCC secretary-general told EurActiv that the most he thought achievable was “firstly a resolution on continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, secondly clarity on how the finance gap is going to be addressed, and thirdly a work programme that will help us get to an all-encompassing 2015 agreement. I think that it is possible to agree a work programme taking us to a global treaty in 2015 although the devil there is in the detail – ie. How comprehensive will it be? And will it address critical questions like what is it that we are actually supposed to agree in 2015 – a treaty or another protocol or a set of decisions? It is critical that these questions be resolved early or it will not be clear to countries what they are working towards.”
De Boer, who currently works as climate advisor to the KPMG group of auditors, added that the issue of quantifying emissions by industrialised countries and major emerging economies would “not be a complicating factor. There are emissions data available on most countries in the world. The issue is: do countries take a quantified target as rich countries have done in the past – committing to reduce emissions in absolute terms by X%? Many developing countries are more in favour of relative targets where you commit to reduce the emissions intensity of your economy – emissions can still go up but by less than overall economic growth. There’s also the question of ‘could you also think of growth targets?’ That might sound bizarre at a time of catastrophic climate change but when Europe signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, a number of countries – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland – all had growth targets because of a recognition in the EU that those member states were still relatively poor and needed to grow, and increase emissions. You could argue that given that per capita incomes in a number of major industrialising countries are still relatively low, they’re not yet in a position where they could take an emissions reduction target in absolute terms.”
The EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, was upbeat about the results of the COP18 summit. “In Doha, we have crossed the bridge from the old climate regime to the new system,” she said in a statement. “We are now on our way to the 2015 global deal. It was not an easy and comfortable ride. It was not a very fast ride either. But we have managed to cross the bridge. Very intense negotiations lie ahead of us. What we need now is more ambition and more speed.”
However, many environmental NGOs said that they were shocked at the result of the talks. “Rather than contribute to closing the gap between what countries are willing to do and what is needed in terms of climate action, Doha has increased it,” said Wendel Trio, the director of Climate Action Network Europe. “By sticking with only the lowest end of their promises, Parties like the European Union are moving this gap in the wrong direction. The EU missed its chance to play a leadership role in Doha, which it could have done by increasing its emission reduction target to 30%, in line with policies it already has in place. We are dismayed that the EU accepted weakening “hot air” rules by allowing the use of emission surpluses from the past.”
Ulriikka Aarnio, CAN’s senior policy officer added: “Developed countries have once again missed an opportunity to build a stronger partnership with developing countries by not providing the level of climate finance that has been promised. By neither putting money on the table nor providing clarity on when and where climate finance would be provided, developed countries are losing respect as well as the ability to get developing countries engaged in taking binding commitments in a new treaty.”
“This package offers improved continuity from existing carbon markets to the new markets of the future,” said Dirk Forrister,the CEO if the International Emissions Trading Association. “But it still won’t inspire action at the scale commensurate with the Copenhagen objective of limiting warming to 2 degrees. For that, we need much more clarity around a robust market mechanism that can deliver at scale. Through several long nights of tough negotiating, Doha delivered the essential elements for a new market mechanism. But there is much more work needed to complete the details and make it operational.”
Oxfam’s campaigns director Celine Charveriat said that while no developed country fought for a collective commitment in Doha to ensure public finance levels would continue to rise, the US bore particular responsibility for blocking progress on finance, loss and damage and other issues. “Poor countries came to Doha facing a climate ‘fiscal cliff’, and at the end of these talks they are now left hanging by their fingertips off the edge,” she said.
“The US made a down payment on climate finance with its Fast Start Finance, but in Doha it was time to pay the mortgage and they did not deliver. The EU was incapable of exerting sufficient leadership in these negotiations because they couldn’t get their house in order on everything including 30 per cent reduction in emissions, the carryover of surplus emissions under the Kyoto Protocol and public climate finance. This year droughts in the Sahel, US and Russia saw food prices rise and hunger spread, but rather than rising to the challenges posed by climate change, we saw a drought of climate action from rich countries in Doha,” Charveriat added.
“Even typhoon Bopha hitting the Philippines during the talks didn’t stir them to action,” complained CIDSE’s climate policy officer Emilie Johann. “Developing countries were forced to accept an empty outcome. Governments might be able to live with this agreement, but people – the world’s poorest in particular – and the planet cannot. Instead of new emission targets, Doha gave us a one way ticket to a world in which climate change is beyond our control. Because of the inaction of our leaders, global temperatures continue to rise rapidly, beyond the +2 degrees Celsius science indicates is the threshold of catastrophic climate change.”
“We need more ambition from all major economies to reach a comprehensive climate agreement and create a level playing field for business across the globe. We remain committed to the fight against climate change but in light of the lacklustre results from UN climate negotiations, the EU must rethink its own energy and climate policies. Technology should be the driving force to deliver on energy cost-competitiveness, security of supply and climate action with the ambition of maintaining a strong industrial base in Europe,” said BusinessEurope Director General Markus Beyrer.