Introduction

The high-level segment of the conference opened on Tuesday 4 December 2012, sandwiched between further contact group meetings and informal consultations. The buzz from Monday continues to permeate the atmosphere in Doha, with strong statements from many heads of State and heads of government.

The Doha Conference: Day Nine

Let us be under no illusion. This is a crisis” stated UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his opening remarks to COP 18, “I urge all parties to work with a spirit of compromise – to take the long view and avoid getting bogged down in minutiae.” It was almost as though the Secretary General had been listening on Monday when comments were heard discussing whether text should be italicised.

Despite the distraction of (arguably important) political rhetoric, the productivity of discussions appears to be increasing and consultations continued late into the day with papers beginning to take form around the conference. The conference has now reached a stage where the issues have been spread so widely, to informal sub-groups of a variety of descriptions, that actual definitive progress is difficult to gauge.

AWG-DP

A draft decision paper was presented to the working group by AOSIS, setting out a work plan for 2013 and highlighting the urgent need to narrow the gap between mitigation efforts and climate change targets. It proposes scheduled meetings throughout the year and invites further proposals with regard to raising ambitions, MRV, finance and implementation. There was widespread support for the paper, with notes of caution from Brazil and the Dominican Republic as to the correct balance between prescriptive detail and flexibility. Both Norway and Brazil also suggested that input from other stakeholders may be beneficial. Perhaps tellingly, New Zealand, having announced its intention not to enter a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, suggested that ambition was being hampered by “an environment of finger pointing”.

Following the roundtable session, informal consultations continued looking at the draft paper and a revised draft text from the co-chairs, with the latter now appearing to be light on detail.

AWG-KP

The disagreement as to the level of developed countries QELROs continued, with a grouping of developing countries tabling a proposal under which Annex I Parties would take on QELROs in line with the uppermost limits of their pledged range, plus raised targets under the second commitment period of at least an aggregate of 33% emissions reductions by comparison with 1990 levels by 2017. Additionally, a further review of the QELROs would be mandated in 2014, with a view to a 45% emissions reduction by 2020. Whilst several countries agreed the proposal could be the basis for further discussion, it will not come as a surprise that many developed countries had reservations, both as to the timelines and as to the level of emissions reductions proposed. One must query whether the EU even has a mandate to set any targets in excess of its stated 20% levels by 2020, making such proposed targets meaningless.

Discussion again looked at the proceeds from the CDM, with developing countries suggesting that the share of proceeds from CERs issued under CDM projects should be increased. With the present reduced value of CERs in the market, the increase in the share of proceeds will have a minimal effect in boosting the finance that may become available through the Adaptation Fund. Discussions on all of the proposals will continue at informal sessions.

A meeting chaired by Lord Stern also turned attention to the market mechanisms, with concerns again being raised as to uncertainty as to the future of the CDM. Australia and the EU noted their linked emissions trading schemes, which, in conjunction with the recent announcements from China, Thailand and Vietnam regarding their intentions to establish similar emissions trading initiatives, should increase demand for CERs.

AWG-LCA

The stalemate that has emerged in this working group continued to play itself out, with the outstanding issues of adaptation, technology transfer, capacity building and response measures largely taking second place to discussions of procedure and delegation of the issues to sub-groups.

One proposal, put forward by a group of 17 countries, but led by China and India, suggested that the UN should have oversight of all investments made by the GCF. This has received significant criticism in the press as it would grossly impact the possibility of raising finance from the private sector, which is now widely recognised as key to achieving the target of US $100 billion per year by 2020.

COP

The opening ceremony for the high-level segment took place in the afternoon, with speeches followed by press conferences from the numerous heads of State and government ministers of the parties represented at the conference, including UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, the President of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. There was a clear understanding, echoed in numerous speeches, of the required outcomes from the Doha conference. Ban Ki-moon’s speech could be regarded as representative, outlining five key deliverables which, whilst familiar, are worth repeating:

  1. the adoption of a ratifiable second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol;
  2. progress on long-term climate finance to mobilize US $100 billion per year by 2020;
  3. fully equipping the GCF and Climate Technology Centre and Network (“CTCN”) in order to support developing countries’ adaptation and mitigation efforts;
  4. a demonstration that negotiations for a global and legally binding instrument remain on track for signature in 2015; and
  5. closing the gap between the parties’ mitigation pledges and the target of preventing a rise in global temperatures of more than 2°C.

This is a useful list against which the Doha conference’s successes can be benchmarked come the end of this week.

Conclusions

To some extent it is too early to tell whether substantial progress will be made now that the heads of state and government ministers have arrived, but it is notable that the UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced the UK’s commitment to contribute £1.8 billion to climate finance between 2013 and 2015. The UK is the first G7 nation to make such a pledge in Doha and earned the country the “Ray of the Day” award. Whether this £1.8 is additional to, or part of, the £2.9 billion already pledged for delivery between 2011 and 2015 may be clarified by the government in due course.