Climate Change

Analysis of UN climate deal in Doha finds more questions than answers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 December, 2012, 4:12am

The fractious debate at the UN climate talks in Doha point to a rocky road ahead to a new, global 2020 deal on saving the earth from calamitous global warming.

Negotiators applauded as conference chairman Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah of Qatar rushed through a package of deals he called the Doha Climate Gateway on Saturday evening.

The package gave a second life to the Kyoto Protocol, albeit in a watered-down form, placing binding targets to cut emissions on the European Union and 10 other developed countries, jointly responsible for about 15 per cent of global emissions. But the consensus interim agreement that many say lacks substance, after two weeks of intense talks deadlocked almost from day one, highlighted deep fault lines between rich and poor nations.

"If we make a judgment based on what we've seen in these negotiations so far, there is no reason to be optimistic" about a fair, new global deal, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said.

The key dispute has remained unaltered for more than two decades - sharing out responsibility for tackling what UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called the climate change "crisis".

The developing world places the onus for financing and deep emissions cuts on rich countries, which they say got where they are today by pumping the bulk of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But rich countries led by the United States, which has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, insist on imposing a duty on poorer nations polluting heavily now as they burn coal to bolster their developing economies.

The new deal, covering all nations, must be negotiated by 2015. The UN is targeting a limited warming of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The package includes wording on scaling up funding until 2020 to help poor countries deal with global warming and convert to more environmentally friendly energy sources, but does not list figures. It is also short on detail on stepping up pre-2020 emissions cuts by non-Kyoto partners, including the first and fourth biggest polluters, developing nations China and India, as well as the second-placed United States.

The US is vehemently opposed to a global deal that imposes goals from the top down, insisting it wants a "flexible" system that allows nations to determine what they can contribute.

"It is going to be hard because you need both the United States and China in alignment, and the politics lining up in those two countries, to feel they can go much farther for 2020 and make the kind of commitments we need," climate observer Alden Meyer of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said.