COP18 expectations: will it be enough, and in time?

The 18th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicks off today in Qatar with delegates, NGOs, activists, and media from 194 nations attending.  Ahead of COP18, UNFCCC’s executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, indicated their confidence that the climate conference will bring success for climate change negotiations and the transition towards a low carbon global economy.  But what specifically is COP18 aiming for? And what can we, the public, expect from the COP18 negotiations and thereafter?

UNFCCC’s expectations for COP18

  • Extension of the Kyoto Protocol:  Expectations are that the Kyoto Protocol will be amended at COP18, allowing extension of the protocol from 2013 to 2020.  The developed world’s global carbon emissions account notably to global emissions – the European Union and United States contribute 11% and 16% respectively to global carbon emissions.   The EU confirmed their willingness to sign the Kyoto Protocol 2013-2020 extension, but the United States remain unwilling – until such time as other major economies including specifically China, signs.  Other key developed countries including Australia, Norway and Switzerland, indicated their support for the Kyoto Protocol extension ahead of COP18.
  • KP2 could become a reality:  With the 1997 Kyoto agreement coming to an end with the closing of 2012, a second commitment period of the protocol, KP2, could begin January 2013.  Although negotiations under signature countries, and countries outside of the agreement, commenced even prior to COP17, and were feverishly undertaken during the last few months, all eyes will be on COP18 for final discussions on the second commitment period.   An unofficial draft of KP2 was finalised in September 2012, but Australia, New Zealand and Ukraine’s inclusion remain uncertain, but possible.
  • Finance talks: Funding for climate change action is a major problem for many countries and available funding is drastically reduced by the global economic stagnation.  This is also one of the key reasons for failing climate actions (or its absence) particularly in developing, but also developed countries.  A financial expectation from COP18 is to engage with the OPEC countries on potential contributions for the near future.  To date, OPEC countries were very much in the back seat, but are increasingly showing dedication to sustainability and renewable energy.
  • Green Climate Fund: The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established at COP16 with the aim of supporting developing countries in implementing climate actions.  At COP17, governing instruments for the fund were confirmed, subject to the Convention principles.  The expectation for COP18 is that delegates will finalise all outstanding arrangements, allowing for the GCF to act to its full potential.
  • Clean Development Mechanisms & carbon markets:  The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) success to date is not rated very highly.  WWF reported on design flaws and resulting negative atmospheric impacts, adding to the global carbon emission volume.  For KP2, the aim is that CDM projects will proactively deal with the expected carbon leakage, unlike CDM projects under the first commitment period which did not deliver real global carbon reductions.

A lot of talk and expectations, but is it enough?

KP, KP2, GCF, CDM… COP18 has a number of expectations to live up to, but let’s consider the larger picture.  Are these expectations enough?  This question is particularly relevant in light of UNEP’s recent warnings that this century’s global warming forecasting is now much more intense than ever before –  climate change scientists recently revealed shocking research: there is a 20% chance of a 4°C increase by 2100.  The opportunity to change our carbon emissions is quickly running dry, and climate change is not waiting for any sealing of negotiations or action plans to reach operational phases.  If all goes smoothly at COP18, we could expect to see the above negotiations fall in place, but there is a little voice, backed by scientific data, shouting that time is up.  Act today.

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Photo credits: some rights reserved by kk+ and CGIAR Climate via flickr

Sources: Responding to Climate Change (RTCC); Ernest & Young; WWF Position Paper (November 2012) & GreenProphet.com

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