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Doha Climate Change Conference: A Transitional Conference in UN Climate Negotiations

Monday, 31 December 2012
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, was held from 26 November to 8 December 2012. It involved a number of events, including the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8). The Conference brought together a broad spectrum of key stakeholders, including governmental officials and representatives from UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations. The cardinal purpose of the Doha Conference was to trigger a new phase of climate action and fill in the gaps in the international policy response to climate change.

After two weeks of tough negotiations the delegates have reached a package of decisions, known as “Doha Climate Gateway”. At the core of the Doha Climate Gateway lies the decision to adopt amendments to the Kyoto Protocol in order to establish a second commitment period of eight years, running from 2013-2020. Since key emitters, such as Canada, Japan, Russia and New Zealand, withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol and those who have ratified it represent only the 15% of annual global emissions, this victory turns out to be pyrrhic. Furthermore, Annex I Contracting Parties to the Kyoto Protocol have agreed to review their emission targets for a second commitment period at the latest by 2014, in an effort to be in line with recommendations of a minimum of 25-40% emission reductions below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to hold the increase in global temperature below 2o Celsius.

Regarding the thorny issue of the “hot air”, the delegates supported that only Parties with a quantified emission limitation or reduction objective (QUELRO) are eligible to transfer and acquire second commitment period Kyoto units.* The unused units are to be transferred into second commitment period and stored in a “previous period surplus reserve account”.

The “Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action” (AWG-LCA) - the negotiating track created in 2007 to enable the implementation of the UNFCC - concluded its work and the negotiators established a new work programmes for those elements that remained for the fulfillment of Bali Action Plan’s mandate. Among other outstanding issues, the Parties adopted a work plan to define a New Market Mechanism (NMM) and agreed upon potential modalities and procedures for establishing this mechanism.

The new negotiating track on the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”, entrusted with the task to contribute to the adoption of a new legally-binding deal applicable to all Parties to UNFCC Convention and to be implemented from 2020, made major steps towards this goal. ** In particular, the ADP decided to “move to a more focused mode of work in 2013” under two work streams launched in Doha, on the post-2020 legal agreement and increasing pre-2020 ambition. Also, Parties agreed a firm timetable so that a draft negotiating text is available by May 2015.

Moreover, the implementation of Climate Finance commitments was once again under the spotlight as the prime concern of the developing countries. In an effort to finance the Green Climate Fund, created in Durban, COP agreed to extend the work programme on long-term finance through 2013. The ultimate objective of this decision was the identification of financial sources for mobilizing $ 100 billion dollars from developed countries per year by 2020 in favour of poor countries. At this point, it is worth mentioning that participants decided that the Green Climate Fund will be located at the Republic of Korea.

The issue of “loss and damage from climate change” emerged as a bone of contention between small islands and least developed countries suffering from the destructive effects of climate change and developing countries.***  In particular, developing countries underscored their right of compensation in absence of strong mitigation and adaptation commitments. On the other hand, developed countries such as United States resisted to a legal obligation of compensation associated with damage from climate change. At the end of the negotiating process, a compromise was achieved.  The next COP 19 is expected to “establish institutional arrangements such as an international mechanism to address loss and damage in particularly vulnerable developing countries”.

The Doha Climate Change Conference has been perceived as a transitional conference in climate negotiations. As Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change stressed: “It will end the negotiations of the past five years and inaugurate a new phase in which major emerging economies will be called on to play a larger role in curbing their greenhouse-gas emissions”.


*For more information about Kyoto Protocol Units see:
**See Paspati, E., The Output of the Durban Climate Change Negotiations: A First Critical Approach, MEPIELAN E-Bulletin, 22 February 2012
 ***Although there is no agreed definition for “loss and damage”, this concept implies loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and which cannot be addressed by mitigation and adaptation means. (

Sources: UN News Centre, IISD
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