Half way through - a view from on the ground in Doha
The scientific reports that show the devastating impacts of climate change and its consequences for the planet and its people could fill even the huge Doha Convention Centre. Yet rather than grappling with the need for urgent action, developed countries have come here with broken promise after broken promise.
The Doha talks are critical. They will decide what the world will do about climate change over the next decade and lay foundations for a new global climate treaty from 2020-2030.
The first week of heated debate has focused primarily on the following 4 key issues:
The Kyoto Protocol
In Durban, it was agreed that there would be a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It is now, in Doha, that rich industrial countries must fulfil this promise by setting emissions reduction targets. But, at the end of week one, many are already wriggling out of this agreement.
Poland and other EU members are pushing hard to carry over their surplus emission allowances. Along with their embarrassingly low emissions cuts target, this means taking absolutely no action on climate change over the next decade. Russia, New Zealand and Japan have rejected any binding targets at all and Canada formally left the Kyoto Protocol, ignoring their international commitments and jeopardising trust in the whole process.
Developing countries, who have done the least to contribute to climate change and who are being affected the most, have been unanimous in calling for targets to be tabled in line with the requirements of climate science: i.e. emissions cuts of at least 25-40% on 1990 levels.
At this point, our only hope lies in Ministers such as Ed Davey arriving in Doha and committing higher cuts in emissions and immediate cancelling of surplus credits. The UK could also show real climate leadership by committing back home to decarbonising its electricity sector by 2030, investing in clean energy and delivering its fair share of emissions reductions.
Climate finance is the genie in the bottle which has the power to transform the lives and economies of some of the poorest in the world, helping them deal with both the impacts of climate change and stop the growing addiction to dirty fossil fuels by investing in clean, green energy.
In Durban countries agreed to successfully conclude discussions about comparing efforts by rich industrial countries, and providing climate finance for developing countries. Yet the United States continues to block these talks. It is totally opposed to any rules being set, and instead wants a pledge and review system where countries' basically contribute whatever they want.
While rich countries are refusing to discuss climate finance and how to meet the insufficient commitment of $100 billion by 2020, the UK Government has today committed spending to help poor countries deal with climate change and develop cleanly from now up to 2015. Other rich countries must now follow their lead.
As The Stern Review said "climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen." He wrote that before seeing the state of the carbon markets today. They have not delivered real emission reductions, they have locked in unsustainable energy systems in the developed world and many of their projects have undermined the rights and interests of marginalised communities across the South.
Despite this Parties in Doha have spent this first week discussing carbon markets as a part of a solution to the climate crisis. False solutions and loopholes such as these must be abandoned before it is too late.
A new treaty
Informal discussions have been going on about a global treaty to cover climate action which is supposed to come into force in 2020. We need a global treaty, but we can't wait that long. All around the world people are already facing climate impacts. The climate doesn't wait for anyone no matter how powerful and rich they are. Hurricane Sandy and the floods in the UK are an illustration of not what is to come but what is already reality. We must ensure we have action today not promises for tomorrow. Because let's be clear every year we delay action condemns even more people to face the impacts of global warming.
The first week in Doha has been disappointing and frustrating.
As Ministers are arrive in Doha for the second week our campaigners on the ground are working day and night to try and bring about some positive outcomes. Watch this space for updates and you can follow my tweets on the latest developments in Doha here: @chilledasad100.
Subscribe to this blog by email using Google's subscription service.
© Eskinder Debebe