Historic climate change summit opens today

November 26, 2012 - 3:41:29 am

An Internal Security Force vehicle patrolling the perimeter of the Qatar National Convention Centre yesterday. Salim Matramkot

By Satish Kanady

DOHA: The United Nation’s two-week historic conference on Climate Change (COP18/CMP8) is set to open here today as the organisers keenly await for the opening positions of key countries and negotiating blocs.

The high-profile summit, which is expected to draw over 17,000 visitors from 194 nations, is aimed at reaching a new agreement on combating climate change challenges by controlling greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions; and other key treaties.

The Doha Summit is meeting amid reports of widening gap in the GHGs. The Emissions Gap Report, coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Climate Foundation, and released days before, shows that greenhouse gas emission levels are now around 14 percent above where they need to be in 2020, and they are still rising. Key questions to be answered at the Doha meet are likely to include the “how” and “what” issues of a second commitment period of emission slash (the first commitment period of emission reduction ends in 2012), including its length and the presentation of the quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives (QELROs) that the concerned parties  will commit to.

The Kyoto Protocol is expected to remain a sticking point of negotiations in Doha as some countries have made the decision not to sign on for the second period of the Kyoto Protocol despite an agreement made by negotiators to extend it in Durban, South Africa, last year.

A majority of the developed countries and countries that are parties to the Protocol like Japan and the Russian Federation, have expressed their intention not to participate in the second commitment period. 

Some countries are still undecided. Many developing countries feel that developed countries should show more commitment to the emission reduction. 

Key players like Brazil, South Africa, India and China, also known as BASIC countries, have called on the developed economies to “scale up ambitions” to reduce GHG emission to meet the 2-degree target. 

Christiana Figueres, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Executive Secretary, said: “Doha is as important as any COP before it. Governments have agreed it is imperative to stay at least below a two degree average global temperature rise to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

Another stumbling block ahead is the decision in the funding of Green Climate Fund (GCF) proposed to help developing nations adapt to climate change. 

Christiana said countries meeting in Doha need to reach a better understanding on how to mobilise long-term finance to support action in developing nations, which they have agreed must reach a level of $100bn a year by 2020.

The conference’s first week is to be spent on debating a complex draft treaty, while environment ministers and heads of state are scheduled to arrive in the second week to attend the high-level segment of the summit. 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to attend the high-level segment of the Summit which begins in the first week of December.

The Higher Organising Committee of COP18/CMP8, chaired by H E Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah, Chairman and the President-elect of the Summit, reviewed the final preparations for the Doha meet on Saturday.

Al Attiyah will take over the COP presidency — a year-long role — when the conference opens at the world-class Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) today.

The Peninsula