Compensation a good idea, but no real steps taken
The two-week UN climate change negotiations came to an end on Saturday with no concrete steps taken to try to halt global warming, some promises for future action and, perhaps most importantly, a historic alteration of its principles. That no concrete steps or commitments by countries to reduce emissions would be made was pretty much expected. First, of course, was the location of the talks—the fact that Qatar, with the highest per capita greenhouse emissions in the world, managed to edge out South Korea, arguably one of the hardest working countries in terms of green growth initiatives, as host said something about the character of the talks that were held at Doha. The US, which has so far refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, failed yet again to put any meaningful emission reductions on the table—it agreed to cut emissions by a mere 3% over 1990 levels, a joke. The Kyoto Protocol, drafted in 1997 and obliging wealthy countries to cut their emissions, has now been extended to 2020, but this again is little more than words. The emissions of those still bound by the Kyoto Protocol amount to only an estimated 15% of the global total. What is needed, as was suggested during last year’s Durban talks, is a new treaty obliging all countries—rich and poor—to tackle climate change. One of the main achievements in Doha this time around was the clearing of the way for the Kyoto Protocol to be replaced by this new treaty. But, again, nothing concrete was established. We’ll have to wait for next year’s talks in Poland for this to go forward.
The most significant step taken at Doha, however, is the first of its kind agreement for an international process for addressing loss and damage caused by climate change. This process, long resisted by developed countries for fear of never-ending compensation claims, was vociferously argued for by island nations and least-developed countries, many of which have had to bear the brunt of drastic, and often catastrophic, weather events. Surprisingly, the US agreed to this ‘loss and damage’ system, but then it too has been on the receiving end of extreme weather, such as Hurricane Sandy (for which Barack Obama reportedly asked for $60 billion). The details of the system, however, are still to be nailed down.
As things stand, though, we’re still far behind schedule. Several