The Doha Gateway: what just happened?

12 December 2012
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The Doha Gateway agreed last week is the result of many sleepless nights for the negotiators who gathered to agree the next phase of international climate policy at COP 18 in the oil rich state of Qatar.  This suite of decisions will be advanced through all the UN Climate Convention (UNFCCC) negotiating tracks:  the Kyoto Protocol; the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action building on the Bali Action Plan; and the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. So what did the COP – the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC – actually agree? Here’s a brief overview, with links to more analysis by ODI colleagues and others.

A second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol was agreed: an average of 18% reductions relative to 1990 levels by 2020

It’s better than the 5% reduction agreed for the first commitment period but, right now, only the  EC member states and Australia are bound by these commitments. What’s more, these are not particularly challenging targets for the EC, whose own legislation aims for more ambitious reductions. Other major developed economies, such as the US and Canada, are clear that they won’t adopt these commitments in the near future. Japan has been reluctant to commit to these new targets, although its final position remains uncertain. Harald Winkler of the Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town in South Africa shared some thought-provoking reflections on the (in)adequacy of these commitments.   

The need to move towards a legally binding agreement that applies to all countries by 2020 was affirmed. This agreement needs to be reached by 2015

This is a step that we hope will yield a more ambitious outcome by the 2015 COP. The Kyoto Protocol guidelines will inform the commitment to adopt a legally binding agreement that applies to all countries by 2020, and to scale up action beyond current pledges in the hope of keeping global warming within just 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

Efforts will continue to scale up climate finance to help developing countries respond to climate change

The Doha Gateway affirms the commitment to scale up finance to $100 billion per year by 2020 from public and private sources, but there’s less clarity on what happens in the short-term. This issue was the focus of ODI’s active presence  at COP 18. And earlier this week, I reviewed the Doha commitments on climate finance.

Addressing climate change loss and damage

‘Loss and damage’ emerged as a key new issue for developing country climate negotiators in Doha, led by the Association of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS), Least Developed Countries, and the African Group of Nations.  The agreed text talks about setting up new ‘institutional arrangements, such as an international mechanism’ in 2013: this is likely to be a major issue at the Warsaw COP in 2013.The tentative agreement to address loss and damage recognises that it’s not possible to ‘adapt to’ some of the impact of climate change. Developed countries such as Europe and the US, however, resisted any references to compensation in the design of the instrument, or to the establishment of a separate fund.

My colleagues Tom Mitchell, Emily Wilkinson and Kashmala Kakakhel reflected on the key issues in the lead up to Doha , as part of an expanding programme of work on loss and damage supported by the Climate and  Knowledge Development Network.

What about emissions from deforestation and degradation?

Parties to the COP process have been working since 2007 on an agreed framework that will give countries incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, and promote the conservation as well as the replenishment of forest stocks (REDD+). The best that REDD+ negotiations could achieve in black and white in Doha was more agreement on more discussion about a work programme on results-based finance for REDD+. The stumbling blocks were whether there would be independent international verification of efforts, and whether or not to create a REDD+ committee to oversee future finance and actions. Bilateral and multilateral efforts to promote REDD+ outside the convention continue, however, with a welcome recognition of the interlinked nature of REDD+ efforts and the various complex pressures that drive land use conversion in developing countries. The ODI-hosted REDD-net has more comments on these issues, and its lead researcher Emily Brickell has reflected on the implications of the Doha process the worlds remaining tropical forests.

And on technology?

In Durban, the COP agreed to establish a technology centre and network to support technology transfer to developing countries, by offering technical assistance and fostering learning. At Doha, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was selected to host this function for the next five years, with possible renewal in 2017. UNEP will lead a consortium that includes developing country based research institutions, as well as international and bilateral technical assistance organisations.

Raising awareness of climate change to build political momentum for change

A programme of work was agreed to support article 8 of the UNFCCC. The ultimate goal is to increase public awareness of climate change, and get politicians to focus on the imperatives to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Improving information transparency

Progress on international climate policy requires a good understanding of what developed and developing countries are doing. A registry of developing country actions and developed country support for these actions was first proposed as a tool to measure, report and verify nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs), reflecting the commitments made in the Bali Action plan in 2007. The Doha Gateway seeks to increase transparency of both action and support: parties agreed that a fully operational prototype of the UNFCCC NAMA Registry will be available by April 2013. Charlene Watson, who works on climate finance and forests at ODI, considered whether and how the registry might help increase information and transparency. Developed country Parties also adopted a common template format to report on their actions, including finance, capacity building and technical support. Technical work to strengthen national communications on climate change action by both developed and developing countries will also continue.

The road to a new climate agreement in 2015

As we take stock of achievements in Doha, there is broad recognition that the compromises reached represent incremental progress, at best. It is crucial to focus on practical action and realistic progress if we are to reach a more effective agreement in 2015. The fact is that, the private sector, civil society and indeed some developed and developing country governments are taking some important steps to this end – they’re just doing it outside the halls of international conventions.

This publication is an output of the following project: Promoting effective climate finance