The UN climate talks at Doha reportedly saved 248 trees thanks to being held at a largely (though often irritatingly) paperless conference. But did it bring us any closer to saving humanity from a sizzling planet?
Not particularly, is the short answer.
Then again, this was not an especially ambitious conference, and to the extent that its stated goals were modest, the Qatari government and the UN should face no major challenge in heralding those two long weeks of negotiations as a “success.”
After all, an eight year second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – which was about to go all but extinct at the end of this year – was agreed to. A pathway was even set out for developed countries to compensate poorer nations affected by loss and damage due to climate change.
Moreover, countries that are taking on further commitments under the Kyoto Protocol countries agreed to review their emissions reduction targets at the latest by 2014, putting a clear moral obligation on them to make more ambitious pledges.
A more specific timetable for adopting a universal climate agreement by 2015 was also agreed to.
On the other hand, perhaps the conference’s main issue of contention – climate finance – had an outcome that is vague at best.
According to the Copenhagen Accord agreed to in 2009, developed countries are to start raising US$100 billion per year starting 2020 to help poorer nations curb their own emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change.
Developed countries are supposed to reach the US$100 billion target by gradually increasing on the US$30 billion supposedly raised each year from 2010-2012. But this conference has failed to show just how this US$30 billion figure will increase (if at all) over the coming eight years so that it might reach its 2020 target.
This lack of specific figures leading up to 2020 makes it virtually impossible for developing countries to try to formulate a clear budget for a climate action plan.
The Climate Action Network, a global network of over 700 NGOs, expressed its take on the conclusions regarding finance as: “An extraordinarily weak outcome on climate finance which fails to put any money on the table or to ensure a pathway to the US$100 billion a year by 2020 target.”
Plenty of disappointment was also directed at Qatar and its neighbours, who are among the highest carbon emitters per capita, yet who failed to make any pledge to reduce their emissions.
Qatar, despite growing pressure and expectations – and after deporting two activists for unfurling a banner at the conference that read “Qatar, why host and not lead?” – only revealed plans to establish a climate change research institute.