Bridges Doha Update #2 | Negotiators Adopt Familiar Positions as Second Week of Doha Climate Talks Begin

3 December 2012

As the latest UN climate change conference moves into its second and final week, many attending the talks are calling it the most “relaxed” and least pressured UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) in recent years. Still, traditional divisions between developed and developing countries are apparent, particularly within negotiations aimed at closing the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) talks by the end of the week, as agreed to last year in Durban. Closing the LCA talks will be a crucial step in implementing the “Durban Platform” (ADP), which aims to forge a post-2020 climate change accord by 2015.

The concept of Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) continues to be a difficult issue here in Doha, with developed countries citing the necessity of binding obligations on all parties to a future treaty. Meanwhile, developing nations - particularly the G77 and China - refuse tdoho accept any binding obligations, citing the developed countries historic responsibility for GHG emissions and their own development needs. Either way, recent reports suggest that emissions pledges remain too low to avoid dramatic climate change.

In terms of negotiations groupings, the previous alliance between the EU, least developed countries (LDCs), and AOSIS - dubbed “the coalition of the willing” at the Durban conference for their publicised goal of a new global protocol to replace Kyoto and increased emission reduction efforts - has begun to loosen. The EU, while on track to meet its commitments under Kyoto, refuses to raise its pledge - primarily due to objections from member country Poland (which will host COP 19 next year), while the LDCs and AOSIS are positioned as the “most vulnerable” among the nations at Doha and are demanding higher pledges from all parties.

LCA discussions bogged down

While closure of the LCA negotiations track was initially thought by many observers to be achievable in Doha, the text which the chair of the LCA today distributed seems to create division rather than consensus. The G77 and China group - which comprises most developing countries - claim that the work plan agreed to at COP 13 in Bali has not been fully implemented and that important pieces are missing in the text. Some issues which are being discussed in this context are strengthening mitigation ambition, appropriate financing, equity and the implementation of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), and technology issues, including the role of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the Technology Mechanism.

For some countries, ensuring that unresolved issues from the LCA talks are not abandoned in a transition to the ADP is a priority. This would require a clear understanding of what will become of remaining LCA issues, such as an explicit reference in the final LCA text that such issues will be forwarded to the ADP. Some unresolved issues for developing countries in the LCA text include a reference to response measures (possible adverse consequences of actions that are taken by developed country parties to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions), commitment to mitigation by developed countries, gaps related to post-2012 climate financing, and adaptation.

In order to help move talks forward, the LCA chair reported Monday that he had proposed a new mode of work, with open-ended working groups on individual items, which was supported by all members. What is expected is that while some issues will be wrapped up in the LCA, others need further discussion in the ADP. If the LCA track is to be closed, negotiators and ministers will have to decide in the coming days which specific issues those will be. Outgoing COP president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of South Africa in her opening address in Doha urged countries to push forward and ensure that the ADP negotiations do not simply represent a name change. “It would be a big step backwards for the ADP to become the LCA in another name,” she said.

Trade issues; Kyoto

Trade featured prominently in a series of meetings of the so-called “forum on response measures,” which was established at COP 17 in Durban. In the forum, a range of experts and countries shared their perspectives on the controversial issue. Some developing countries said that once there is an outcome in the UNFCCC, then more specific rules for low-carbon trade which safeguard equitable sustainable development will need to be discussed at the WTO. Developing countries also pushed for improvement on reporting guidelines on measures taken by developed countries to minimise the adverse effects of response measures; the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) and reporting to the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee were referred to as best practices. The forum in Doha ultimately adopted a text, which was forwarded to the COP.

Negotiations to establish a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol are also taking place here in Doha. It is already clear that, despite limited participation by developed countries, there will be a second commitment period. Negotiators will need to establish the duration of the second commitment period and technical details. The chair of the Kyoto Protocol working group reported at a stocktaking exercise on Monday that progress was made last week, and that a text was tabled on Saturday. The chair intends to complete the work of the working group on Wednesday. Some issues are expected to require intervention of ministers, such as establishing the length of the second commitment period, enhancing ambition, and the eligibility of parties not prepared to take commitments.

Currently, only Australia and the EU are expected to sign on as developed country parties to “Kyoto 2.” The US has never ratified Kyoto and former parties to the Protocol Canada, Russia, and Japan have said they would not participate. Shortly before the Doha talks got underway, New Zealand announced that it would also not sign on to another implementation period of Kyoto. In comments to the Associated Press, New Zealand’s climate minister said that by shifting its attention from Kyoto to the ADP shows that his country is “ahead of the curve.” Critics, however, point out that eight years will pass before the new global treaty comes into force.

Overall, talks in Doha are expected to move ahead as expected, and most observers say they do not expect to see wrangling under the LCA talks to significantly stall the process. There is a general spirit of cautioned positivity surrounding the talks, with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres last week said is high compared to COP 15 in Copenhagen. Early reports emerging from the ADP negotiations are also positive, with parties reportedly engaged in a constructive and cooperative spirit. Informal consultations have been held, focusing on what the outcome of work of this session in Doha should be.

ICTSD Reporting.

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