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Reflection on the 2012 Doha Climate Change Talks

Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liaison Officer at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, says Caribbean delegates played a major role at last year’s climate change talks in Doha, including as Chairs of Contact groups and lead negotiators representing the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) or the Group of 77 and China. He notes that the region would like to see the establishment of a Loss and Damage mechanism included in the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. Read his reflection on the 2012 Doha climate change talks.

Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liasion Officer

Carlos Fuller, International and Regional Liasion Officer

The annual United Nations Climate Change Talks were held in Doha, Qatar from 26 November to 6 December 2012. It consisted of meetings of all seven bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) including the 18th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), the highest body of the Convention, and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties of the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), which is the highest body of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Caribbean delegations attending the meetings were hoping to achieve three main objectives: to ensure the continuity of the Kyoto Protocol, to ensure a successful conclusion of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention, and to establish a loss and damage mechanism. Most of these objectives were realized.

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ended on the 31st of December 2012. Developed countries had agreed when they signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that they would collectively reduce their emissions of greenhouse by 5% of their 1990 levels during the period 2008 to 2012. A carbon market consisting of three flexibility mechanisms were created to assist these countries in meeting their targets. These would have collapsed without a successor agreement. Most of the original developed country signatories to the protocol agreed to an 8-year second commitment period which would result in a collective emission reduction of 18% below their 1990 levels. Japan, New Zealand and the Russian Federation refused to undertake commitments in the second period. The United States of America never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and Canada withdrew last year. A new gas, nitrogen trifluoride, was added to the list of gases controlled by the Kyoto Protocol. Countries agreed that Joint Implementation projects, which are projects between developed countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, should contribute 2% of their proceeds to the Adaptation Fund.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects are implemented in developing countries and the carbon credits generated are sold to developed countries which have emission reduction targets under Kyoto. Countries further agreed that only those countries which had taken on commitments in the second period could participate in theses flexibility mechanisms. All these agreements required amendments to the Protocol and these amendments must be ratified nationally. To ensure that there is no delay in the implementation of the amendments, countries agreed to [provisional application of the amendments or to use existing national legislation while the ratification process is being pursued.

In 2007 at COP 13, countries agreed to the Bali Action Plan which identified the seven areas which would be addressed to ensure long term cooperative action on climate change. These included a shared vision, mitigation by both developed and developing countries, adaptation, technology, finance and capacity building. These negotiations, including the agreement on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, should have been concluded in Copenhagen at COP 15. Although that attempt failed, the stage was set for agreement in the ensuing years for commitments by developed countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. Countries agreed on a shared vision of limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to revisit that target with a view to reducing it to 1.5°C based on new scientific evidence. Developing countries agreed to undertake actions to reduce their emissions if they were provided with the financial and technical support. These Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) would be matched with donor support via a Registry managed by the Secretariat of the UNFCCC.

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Negotiations for a mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, including through conservation (REDD+), were launched. New market mechanisms including through sectoral approaches would be developed. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established as the new vehicle for climate financing. A Standing Committee was established to provide oversight on all the steams of climate financing. A new technology mechanism was established to promote and facilitate development, deployment and transfer of technology for adaptation and mitigation. An Adaptation Committee and the Durban Capacity Building Platform were established. At Doha, the last outstanding institutional mechanisms for these new bodies were developed. These will form the basis of a new protocol or legally binding instrument to address climate change. This new agreement will be finalized by 2015 and will come into effect in 2020.

One element that Caribbean countries wish to see incorporated in the new agreement would be for the establishment of a Loss and Damage mechanism. This has been one of the goals of small island developing states (SIDS) since negotiations commenced on a climate change convention in 1990. All that has been achieved so far is the cursory mention of insurance in one article of the Convention. At Doha countries agreed that the COP would consider the establishment of institutional arrangements including an international mechanism to address loss and damage when it met in Warsaw at COP 19.

Caribbean delegates played major roles at the negotiation including as Chairs of Contact groups and lead negotiators representing the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) or the Group of 77 and China. Trinidad and Tobago will assume the chairmanship of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform in June 2013. This is the body that is negotiating the new agreement.

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