Doha indecision

Anna Oposa
'Doha resulted in a politically balanced outcome, but it was far from addressing the climate crisis. The struggle for climate justice lives on.'

NOT QUITE THERE YET. Delegates to the Doha conference. Photo by Laura Owsianka
DOHA, Qatar – The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference concluded with unresolved financing mechanisms and carbon emission reduction targets.

The aim of the 18th Conference of Parties (COP) was the same as the 17 ones that were previously held: to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for a safer climate for the world. Most crucial in this year’s two-week multi-lateral negotiations were the future of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and the Green Climate Fund.

The KP is the only existing legally binding treaty that expires at the end of the year. The KP requires developed countries or regions such as Japan and the European Union to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% over a five-year period.

At the COP18, the KP was renewed for an eight-year second commitment. But the KP found no oasis in Doha, with countries such as Canada, Japan, and Russia not making any commitment to the next period.

The reality of the devastation caused by Typhoon “Pablo” reverberated with the Philippine delegation, pushing the negotiators to fight harder for the future of the Filipino people. Their impassioned interventions brought the topic of finance back for discussion.

However, the Doha decision failed to mention figures that each country should give the Green Climate Fund, and how, exactly, the amount would be reached by 2020 onwards.

Instead, the Doha decision offered the Loss and Damage mechanism, wherein developed nations are supposed to compensate the vulnerably countries “immediately.” The text did not indicate who would give, how, and how much.

The Green Climate Fund was born in the COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, where the developed nations agreed to build a US$100-B annual fund by 2020. The purpose of the fund is to help developing nations cope with climate change.

‘Empty shell’

By the end of COP18, an emotional Naderev “Yeb” Saño, deputy commissioner of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission, said the Green Climate Fund “[remained] an empty shell.”

In his closing statement on behalf of the like-minded developing countries, Saño said, “[The developing countries] are disappointed not just by the weakness but the almost complete lack of ambition in the second commitment period of the KP… Once again, weak ambition by developed countries is going to prevent this COP from securing a robust outcome.”

In the second commitment of the KP, the targets were much more ambitious. The treaty demanded developed countries to reduce their carbon emissions by 25-40%. This is only natural, considering that global carbon emissions have increased exponentially since the KP was agreed upon in 1997.

But yet another COP ended without definite and tangible solutions to the effects of climate change.

In Saño’s speech to the plenary, he told the world leaders, “Perhaps we have taken significant steps in Doha that allows us to say that Doha was the place where the world found that flicker of hope, but not the place where we turned things around.”

He continued: “[And] 2012 was the year that we found the will to restore the balance in the process, but not the year we found the courage and the will to address the climate crisis.”

John M. Broder of the New York Times remarked, “It has long been evident that the United Nations talks were at best a partial solution to the planetary climate change problem, and at worst an expensive sideshow.”

The Doha decision, or indecision, leaves developing countries such as the Philippines no choice but to depend on ourselves. We look to the homegrown innovations, the necessary resilience of our people, and the commitment of our political leaders.

Saño returns home remaining optimistic. On his personal Facebook page, he stated: “Doha resulted in a politically balanced outcome, but it was far from addressing the climate crisis. The struggle for climate justice lives on. We will do it even one person at a time, one day at a time.” –

SYMBOLIC. Outside the conference halls in Doha. Photo courtesy of Zach Swank

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