Doha, Qatar—Poor countries left the UN climate change negotiations in Doha with little more than they arrived with, because developed countries failed to take any meaningful collective action to prevent and address the most harmful impacts of climate change, international aid agency Oxfam said.
Civil society organisations stood with developing countries to demand more from the Doha talks, but were pressed in the final late hours into a ‘take it or leave it’ agreement.
Vague signals of commitment
At the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations, developed countries committed to pay $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and lower their emissions, but the Doha agreement today failed to commit nations to scaling up their climate finance from next year in line with this promise. This comes at a time when the current arrangements for climate finance, known as Fast Start Finance, will expire in less than three weeks.
While some countries, such as the UK and Germany, made welcome announcements on their plans to increase public financing for the next years, others such as Australia, France and Canada, gave only vague signals of their intentions, while the US and Japan said nothing at all. The end result is that public finance could fall in 2013, at the very moment it needs to be increased.
"Loss and damage"
Another key issue for poor countries – how to address ‘loss and damage’ from climate change to which it is not possible to adapt – saw tough fights between developing countries and especially the US. There was a compromise agreement which keeps open the possibility of establishing an international mechanism to address such impacts.
Oxfam International Director of Campaigns and Advocacy 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.
“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.
Extreme weather and food prices
“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 said.
There is nothing in the Doha agreement that guarantees greenhouse gas emissions will actually fall. There was barely any discussion of increasing mitigation targets, despite the clear recognition over the past two UN climate conferences that the current targets fall far short of levels needed to avoid warming of more than the two degree Celsius limit governments have set.
The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has been adopted, with last minute deals that helped close the worst loopholes, but while countries are allowed to increase their lowly emission reduction targets by 2014, they are not obligated to do so. Roadmaps have been established under last year’s agreement in Durban to consider further cuts next year, and a new international agreement by 2015 that will see all countries required to cut emissions, but that will only come into effect after 2020.
Planet on fire
“Once again governments have done far too little to drive down dangerous greenhouse gas emissions any time soon. The planet is on fire, but our governments are trying to extinguish the flames with watering cans,” Charveriat said.
“Our politicians spend more time quarrelling with each other than fighting our common enemy, climate change. Now citizens around the world must draw a line in the sand and build a movement that matches those that defeated slavery, apartheid, and other struggles for a more equitable world,” Charveriat said.