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Clock ticking for UN climate talks as tempers fray in Doha

By Ed King
RTCC in Doha

The UN climate talks in Doha look set to drag on for an extra day after a lack of progress across all texts during negotiations on Friday.

Ministerial groups are now focusing on four texts that are on the table, although there are still deep disagreements over levels of financial commitments ahead of 2015 and short term plans to cut emissions. An informal presidency stock take took place an hour ago, ahead of the main meeting which is scheduled for 11pm tonight.

Protests inside the conference centre have intensified, although COP President Al Attiyah seems unconcerned that a deal is slipping away, telling negotiators: “I only live 10 minutes away, so I can stay as long as I want – you all need to get flights”.

There are unconfirmed reports that some ministers are keen to take charge of proceedings to ensure negoitations do not collapse.

Speaking after another round of finance talks earlier today, UK Secretary of State for climate and energy Ed Davey said poorer nations – particularly Pacific Island and African states – needed more reassurance that they would receive mitigation and adaptation support in 2013.

“It’s important that AOSIS [small island states] and LDCs [least developed countries] can see that developed countries are going to support them as they deal with mitigation and adaptation to climate change over the next decade,” he said.

Davey feels the European Union’s commitment to an extension to Kyoto and funding announcements this week has demonstrated it is a reliable partner for the Global South, and argues it is now time for others to fill the gap.

“There’s a number of countries who shall we say are capable of doing more, I’m not going to single any individual country out, I think in these last few hours that would be undiplomatic, we’re working with as many countries as possible to move these negotiations forward.”

The Fast Start Finance period from 2010-2012 provided $30bn of funds to developing nations, although significant amounts have either not been delivered or are sitting in development banks.

Wealthier countries have signed up to increase their climate aid to around $100 billion per year by 2020, but with governments such as the US, Canada and Japan yet to offer firm pledges it is still unclear where this money will come from.

Another delegate who did not want to be named outlined to RTCC how the issue could be resolved: “It’s about the language of assurance of continuation, what is the space in the UNFCCC going forward to plan the scale up to $100bn, and what can be said about scaling up and in what form will that return to the COP.”

The EU appears to have come to an internal agreement over the ‘hot air’ credits that many argue could damage the environmental integrity of an extension to Kyoto.

There are around 13 gigatonnes of unused carbon credits, known as Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) left from the first round of Kyoto. Poland is keen to protect its allowance, and appears to have secured a deal which will see them retained with a 2-4% use restriction and a pledge from other EU states not to sell or buy them.

And while it now seems likely that a Kyoto extension will be for eight years, the EU and AOSIS have proposed an ‘ambition trigger’ between 2014-2016, which would start from the basis of parties increasing emission reduction pledges to 30%.

2015 deal

A major task for these talks is to ensure that progress for a global climate deal in 2015 remains on track.

One negotiator RTCC spoke to on condition we did not name them said agreement on a 2015 workplan would represent a huge achievement in Doha:

“This text will set out, particularly in 2013 and 2014 as to how that negotiation will unfold. We will be a step forward, and also after this week the LCA will have been finished, things will be implemented, we’ll have cleared the airspace to get ready to do more ambition and prepare for negotiations.”

The ‘Durban Platform’ text will provide a basis for these negotiations, but critically depends on another text called the LCA (Long Term Cooperative Action) track being resolved amicably.

Negotiators RTCC has spoken to would not now confirm the LCA will definitely conclude its work in Doha, despite an agreement last year for it to do so. This means questions over adaptation, finance, tech transfer and loss and damage could remain unresolved.

The LCA has now closed officially, but it remains to be seen if developing countries will consider it a satisfactory end to its work, a decision that could set the tone for the rest of the evening’s work.

Protests

While ministers continue to thrash out the options behind closed doors, leading NGOs are trying to maintain the pressure on them inside the conference centre.

The central ‘Spider area’, which hosts Louise Bourgeois’ Maman sculpture, has now been ‘Occupied’ by civil society protestors. Earlier today over 100 gathered to ‘sing for the climate’, watched by an equally large number of camera crews and nervous security.

Speaking to RTCC, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo, who was dragged out in handcuffs from last year’s climate summit, expressed his outrage at the sight of another round of UN sponsored talks ending without an ambitious deal on the climate.

“Right now I fear our leaders are suffering from a terrible case of cognitive dissonance. All the facts are there, but in fact we are running out of time – and they are playing political poker with the future of our climate, with the future of our children and grandchildren,” he said.

“Our message to developing countries is don’t back down, stand your ground – we’re saying push for the best possible deal we can get here…but if we get the lowest common denominator it means we are throwing in the towel and heading towards a 4-6C world.”

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