x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New life breathed into Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is given new life as the world's governments agree to extend their commitment to the legally binding climate-change treaty.

DOHA // The Kyoto Protocol was yesterday given new life as the world's governments agreed to extend their commitment to the legally binding climate-change treaty.

But despite the result, a day after the meeting of 194 nations was due to finish, many saw the outcome in Doha as disappointing, with little progress made on cutting emissions or financing developing countries.

The protocol, which obliges developed countries to cut their emissions from 1990 levels, was supposed to end this year.

But governments agreed to sign for a second term to keep it in place until 2020, when a more ambitious treaty is hoped to come into force.

As a developing country, the UAE is not required to make emissions cuts, but it can benefit through the Clean Development Mechanism, which funds projects to cut emissions in such nations.

Governments agreed to extend the protocol in last-gasp discussions yesterday evening - a day later than the 194-country talks were scheduled to end - and amid intense bargaining.

At one point in the afternoon, Abdullah AlAttiyah, the conference president, exasperated from the seeming stalemate said: "If you find a better text, show it to me".

While continuing the Kyoto Protocol brings stability for the next eight years, and may mean developed countries have to pledge stronger reductions in emissions by 2014, more was expected from the talks.

The summit was supposed to set the world on a path to negotiating a new treaty on climate by 2015, which sets emissions targets for more countries. The talks were also supposed to address the eight-gigaton gap between the reduction pledges now on the negotiating table and what is needed to avoid catastrophic changes to the climate.

Tasneem Essop, head of delegation for the World Wide Fund for Nature , said the Doha talks were supposed to be an important step in setting up a fair, ambitious and binding deal in 2015 and therefore needed to rebuild trust and instill equity.

"The Doha decision has delivered no real cuts in emissions, it has delivered no concrete finance, and it has not delivered on equity," he said.

Climate finance was a particularly important issue in the negotiations and one where developed and developing nations clashed extensively.

During a summit in Copenhagen three years ago, developing countries were promised US$30 billion in fast-track finance in the short term and US$100 billion by 2020. In Cancun, the following year, governments created the Green Climate Fund but the fund is still not operational. Last year, in Durban, poor countries were promised there would be progress on agreeing finance mechanisms in Doha.

"The problem we have here is that the negotiations always included a finance commitment because the fundamental bargain is developed countries should move first in cutting emissions, developing countries should be encouraged to do something but in return for that they should get public finance and they should get technological transfer," said Celine Charveriat, director of advocacy and campaigns at Oxfam International.

"Developing countries arrived here and what are they seeing on the table? Absolutely nothing," she said.

While some countries, such as Germany, which promised US$1.8 billion, and the UK are pledging funds, these commitments are not part of the negotiating text, she said. What was needed was a commitment within the text that US$60bn in public funds would be made available by 2015, she said.

"What is going on here is that developing countries are sick of coming and people not keeping to their word," she said. "That means there will be zero trust in the negotiations in the years to come. We cannot afford that. Rich countries had this opportunity to build trust here in Doha and they are completely failing."

"If rich countries moved, if rich countries were serious about reducing emissions, about providing finance, that would really encourage others to do something," said Ms Charveriat.

vtodorova@thenational.ae