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Kyoto Protocol extended in Doha, but doubts over short term climate ambition

By John Parnell
RTCC in Doha

An extension to the Kyoto Protocol until 2020 has been agreed at the UN climate talks in Doha as part of an overall package that could lead to a global agreement in 2015.

Approved by over 190 countries and 26 hours after the summit should have closed, the Protocol is still the world’s only legally effective climate framework, although it now covers less than 15% of world emissions.

Delegates also agreed to simplify the negotiation process, closing one track of talks and turning the focus on a proposed agreement to be signed in 2015 and put into action in 2020. An outline of a workplan was signed off here, with countries agreeing to fill this in during early 2013.

Developing countries were left disappointed by limited financial pledges by richer states, although work will begin on a new loss and damage mechanism that could see countries hit by climatic disasters compensated by historically high emitters.

But despite applause as the conference closed, climate campaigners said it had been a deep disappointment.

Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said the process was “bankrupt” as it had failed to protect poorer countries from the onset of global warming. “Any government walking out of here saying this was a success is suffering from a terrible case of cognitive dissonance”, he said.

Controversy

Russia’s delegate Oleg Shamanov left Doha aggrieved, complaining his concerns about a second Kyoto period had been ignored.

Russia, along with Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan wanted to maintain its huge stocks of ‘hot air‘, or Assigned Amount Units of carbon dioxide, a relic of the first Kyoto Protocol period – but the rest of the world disagreed.

After hours of locked negotiations on Saturday COP18 President Al Attiyah took matters into his own hands and in a dramatic two minutes announced all texts had been accepted by the conference, ignoring objections from Russia.

The European Union was forced to allow Poland to keep its quota of ‘hot air’, although the EU, Norway, Oz, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Switzerland and Japan subsequently announced they would not purchase any of these units.

The penultimate night also saw a heated debate break out between the US and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) over Loss and Damage, the so-called third pillar of the talks that would see those feeling the effects of climate change supported to repair the damage.

Low ambition

The Kyoto portion of the deal is a diplomatic victory after a late scare, but with low participation, an absence of funding and unambitious emission pledges, it falls short of what is required by the science.

Expectations on finance were not met with no quantitative pledge offered. Instead countries have promised to match the average pledges under the Fast Start Finance scheme, which averaged $11bn a year, some way short of the $60bn figure requested by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

“Climate finance is not charity or foreign aid; it’s an obligation of developed countries, whose accumulated emissions have caused the climate crisis,” said Brandon Wu, senior policy advisor at Action Aid US.

“The Doha outcome completely fails to provide clarity on how these countries will meet this obligation. Lacking concrete numbers and dates, it lets rich countries off the hook and enables them to just kick the can further down the road. Developing countries have no idea whether climate finance will go up or down, or even whether it will reliably flow in the coming years.

“The first paragraph of the finance text is a good indication of how utterly weak it is: it urges developed countries “to announce climate finance pledges when their financial circumstances permit.” This is completely laughable as legal text – it’s written to be meaningless and is, unfortunately, representative of much of the rest of the finance text in the Doha outcome,” said Wu.

China and others had also asked for a roadmap to should how the Green Climate Fund would raise the promised $100bn a year by 2020.

There was a flurry of reports from the World Bank, International Energy Agency and UNEP in the build-up to the talks warning of the urgency to begin drastic emission reductions as soon as possible. While these reports were frequently referenced by negotiators, they are not reflected in the Doha Climate Gateway.

COP18 VIDEO: Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International at CAN International press conference

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