At the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar (COP18/ CMP8), governments consolidated the gains of the last three years of international climate change negotiations and opened a gateway to necessary greater ambition and action on all levels. Among the many decisions taken, governments:
- Strengthened their resolve and set out a timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015, which will come into effect in 2020.
- Streamlined the negotiations, completing the work under the Bali Action Plan to concentrate on the new work towards a 2015 agreement under a single negotiating stream in the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP).
- Emphasized the need to increase their ambition to cut greenhouse gases (GHGs) and to help vulnerable countries to adapt.
- Launched a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, thereby ensuring that this treaty's important legal and accounting models remain in place and underlining the principle that developed countries lead mandated action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
- Made further progress towards establishing the financial and technology support and new institutions to enable clean energy investments and sustainable growth in developing countries.
The Urgency to Act
While there has been some success in climate change mitigation, global emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise.
International action under the UNFCCC must be guided by the best available science. Increasingly frequent and progressively more severe impacts of climate change make the need for urgent action abundantly clear.
This is underscored by a growing number of reports, which have also provided options and solutions for the world to act effectively now to prevent much more serious climate change in the future. Most recent and upcoming reports include:
- The World Bank's "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided", showing that the world is on track towards a 4 degrees Celsius temperature rise, should the currently inadequate level of ambition remain.
- UNEP's Emissions Gap Report 2012, which demonstrated that it is still possible to bridge the emissions gap by 2020.
- The World Economic Forum's Global Risks 2013 report, released early in 2013. This report outlines a survey of more than 1000 experts polled on how they expect 50 global risks to play out over the next ten years. The report cites rising greenhouse gas emissions as one of the five major risks the global economy faces, and calls runaway climate change an X-factor that multiplies and exacerbates all risk.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2013 and 2014. The assessment will provide governments with the latest science on physics and impacts of climate change, and the scale of ambition necessary to successfully tackle climate change. The first installment of AR5 on the science is due this September, and the second and third installments are scheduled for release in March/April 2014. More info can be found on the IPCC website.
Specific Outcomes of COP18/ CMP8
COP18/ CMP8 met the objectives set by governments for what needed to be achieved now. It produced many outcomes that moved the negotiations forward and advanced the international agenda.
Timetable for the 2015 global climate change agreement and increasing ambition before 2020
So that the world has a chance to stay below an agreed maximum 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise, beyond which even more serious climate change impacts will occur, governments agreed to:
- Speedily work toward a universal climate change agreement covering all countries from 2020, to be adopted by 2015.
- Find ways to scale up efforts before 2020 beyond the existing pledges to curb emissions.
Also in Doha, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced he would convene world leaders in 2014 to mobilize political will to help ensure the 2015 deadline is met.
Work will intensify in 2013 to prepare the new agreement and to explore further ways to raise ambition. The first meeting of the ADP in 2013 (ADP 2) will take place in Bonn from 29 April to 3 May. Governments agreed to submit information, views and proposals on actions, initiatives and options to enhance ambition to the UNFCCC by 1 March, 2013. They invited observers to do the same and tasked the secretariat with analyzing the resulting mitigation benefits of planned actions.
Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol, as the only existing and binding agreement under which developed countries undertake quantitative commitments to cut greenhouse gases, was amended so that it could seamlessly continue. Specifically:
- Governments decided on an 8-year second commitment period, which started on January 1st 2013.
- The legal requirements that will allow a smooth continuation of the Protocol were agreed, and the valuable accounting rules of the Protocol were preserved.
- Countries that are taking on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol agreed to review their emission reduction commitments at the latest by 2014, with a view to increasing their respective levels of ambition.
- The Kyoto Protocol's Market Mechanisms the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and International Emissions Trading (IET) will continue.
- Access to the mechanisms remains uninterrupted for all developed countries that have accepted targets for the second commitment period.
- A key element was added to the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) framework for developed countries with the adoption of the tables for the biennial reports known as common tabular format, thereby strengthening transparency and the accountability regime.
- Surplus assigned amount units (AAUs) can be carried over without limit from the first to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol by Parties included in Annex I that have a target for the second commitment period, but with restrictions on the use of these carried-over AAUs for the second commitment period and quantitative limits on how many of these units may be acquired from other Parties.
Completion of new infrastructure
In Doha, governments advanced the completion of new infrastructure to channel technology and finance to developing nations and move toward the full implementation of this infrastructure and support. Most importantly, they:
- Endorsed the selection of the Republic of Korea as the host of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the work plan of the Standing Committee on Finance. The GCF is expected to start its work in Songdo in the second half of 2013.
- Confirmed a UNEP-led consortium as host of the Climate Technology Center (CTC), for an initial term of five years. The CTC, along with its associated Network, is the implementing arm of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism. Governments also agreed the constitution of the CTCN Advisory Board.
Long-term climate finance
Developed countries reiterated their commitment to deliver on promises to continue long term climate finance support to developing nations, with a view to mobilizing USD 100 billion annually from a variety of sources both for adaptation and mitigation by 2020.
- Developed country Parties were invited to submit before the next Conference information on their strategies for mobilizing scaled-up finance.
- The finance in the period between 2013 and 2015 should equal or exceed the average annual level with which countries provided funds during the 2010 to 2012 fast-start finance period (a total of USD 30 billion.) This is to ensure there is no gap in continued finance support while efforts are otherwise scaled up.
Governments will continue a work programme on long-term finance during 2013 to identify pathways for mobilizing scaled-up finance to reach the 100 billion target by 2020. A high-level roundtable on finance is planned for COP19/ CMP9 in Warsaw so that ministers can provide general guidance.
- Governments launched a robust process to review the long-term temperature goal, which is to start in 2013 and conclude by 2015, aimed at providing a reality check on the advance of the climate change threat and the possible need to mobilize further action.
- Governments identified ways to further strengthen the adaptive capacities of the most vulnerable through better planning.
- A pathway was established towards concrete institutional arrangements to provide the most vulnerable populations with better protection against loss and damage caused by slow onset events such as rising sea levels.
- Ways to implement National Adaptation Plans for least developed countries were agreed, including linking funding and other support.
Support of developing country action
- Governments completed a registry to record developing country mitigation actions that seek recognition or financial support. The registry will be a flexible, dynamic web-based platform.
- A new work programme to build climate action capacity through education and training, public awareness and public participation in climate change decision-making was agreed. This is important to create a groundswell of support for embarking on a new climate change regime after 2020.
New market mechanisms
- A work programme was agreed to further elaborate the new market-based mechanism under the UNFCCC, which also sets out possible elements for its operation.
- A work programme was also agreed to develop a framework for recognizing mechanisms established outside the UNFCCC such as nationally-administered or bilateral offset programmes - and to consider their role in helping countries to meet their mitigation targets.
Actions on forests
- Governments further clarified ways to measure deforestation, and to ensure that efforts to fight deforestation are supported.
Economic diversification initiative
- Following a submission by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the COP took note of the readiness of these countries to put forward their current actions and plans in pursuit of economic diversification that have co-benefits in the form of emission reductions, adaptation to the impacts of climate change and response measures.
In Doha, negotiations were streamlined to create a smoother path forward. The Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), both finalized their work in Doha as mandated. In depth consideration of some issues was entrusted partly to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and partly to the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
The Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), agreed in Durban in 2011, is now tasked with two streams of work:
- Workstream 1 To take the steps necessary to negotiate a global climate change agreement that will be adopted by 2015 and enter into force from 2020.
- Workstream 2 To agree how to raise global ambition before 2020 to accelerate the response to climate change.
Some issues discussed up to the end of COP18/ CMP8 in the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP will partly be discussed within the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and partly in the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), and some in the ADP.