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December 17, 2012
Climate conference results in "gateway"

The United Nation’s 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) on climate change, which ended in Doha, Qatar, on December 8, 2012, formally extended the Kyoto Protocol to 2020, but otherwise produced no new commitments to further reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).  Leaders of the 2-week conference attempted to put a positive spin on the event by noting that it built a foundation for more substantial future steps.

“Doha has opened a new gateway to bigger ambition and to greater action,” said COP President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah.

“Doha is another step in the right direction, but we still have a long road ahead,” commented Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Reviews of emissions targets

With the conclusion of COP18, the Kyoto Protocol remains the only existing and binding agreement under which developed countries commit to cutting GHGs.  According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the accounting rules of the Protocol have been preserved.  UNEP also reports that some nations agreed to review their emissions reduction targets by 2014 with a view toward bettering their commitments.  The clean development mechanism, joint implementation, and international emissions trading–all key market mechanisms of the Protocol–are also extended as of January 2013. 

New agreement by 2015

The parties also committed to developing a new universal climate agreement by 2015, which would take effect upon the termination of Kyoto in 2020.  Before the launch of any new agreement, the parties agreed to explore ways to scale up their existing GHG reduction pledges to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).  “The door to stay below 2 degrees remains barely open,” commented Figueres.  A “significant number” of meetings and workshops are planned for 2013 “to explore further ways to raise ambition,” reports UNEP.

Regarding funding, developed nations repeated their commitment to producing $100 billion for adaptation and mitigation in developing nations by 2020.  But funding between 2013 and 2020 seems less secure.  For example, the agreement reached simply encourages developed countries to provide financing between 2013 and 2015 to, at a minimum, match the annual funds they provided during 2010 to 2012. 

New market mechanism

Other actions taken at Doha include:

  • Plans to develop a new mechanism with the potential to harmonize carbon markets globally.
  • Launch of a new process to review the long-term temperature goal.
  • Establishment of a “pathway” to provide the most vulnerable populations with better protection against loss and damage caused by slow- onset events such as rising sea levels.
  • Further clarification on how to measure deforestation.
  • Discussions on ways to ensure the effectiveness and environmental integrity of clean development mechanism projects that capture and store emissions.

Click here to read UNEP’s summary of developments at COP18.

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