Last year we said that the Durban Conference (COP 17), “was probably the last chance to come up with a world order that would indeed stop climate change.” Yet, as we have since pointed out, GHG emissions have continued to rise, world temperatures have set new records, most governments have wavered in their determination to act, and little progress had been made towards an international regime that would reduce climate change.
The two weeks of discussions at Doha (COP18) have not changed much. The Conference did agree to extend the Kyoto Protocol to 2020. This Agreement saves some face, and is better than leaving Kyoto in limbo while states jockey to protect their national interests. Yet with three parties (Canada, Russia and Japan) withdrawing, the United States never having ratified Kyoto in the first place, and developing countries such as China not subject to emission limits, the extension of Kyoto will not contribute much to the reduction of GHG emissions.
The Conference also agreed that wealthier nations should compensate poorer nations that suffer damage from climate change. The agreement contains little in the way of concrete obligations upon the potential donors of such aid. The agreement did not spell out how the amount of the aid was to be calculated nor did it identify what losses would be the subject of aid. (Should a country that no longer exists as it is under water receive aid?)
There will be another conference next year in Warsaw (COP19). One hopes that the Kyoto supporters – the EU, and other developed countries such as Australia and Norway – will be able to manoeuvre countries lukewarm to global warming risks into taking action.
But don’t get hopes up too high! In fact best not to get them up at all!