Doha will definitely get warmer in the next two weeks as thousands of government officials, scientists and activists from over 190 countries turn up for the UN Climate Change Conference.
Once again, we put our faith on the future of our warming planet in their hands, while bets are placed for the conference that opens today, to produce real results, not just a play of words.
In Doha, lots of work has to be done and many deals have to be sealed. This year around, governments are expected to ink details on how the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, which will begin exactly on Jan.1 next year, will be applied. The Protocol, the only legally binding international treaty to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from industrial countries, expires this year.
Doha is also trusted to come up with important steps forward in the plan to produce a new comprehensive and legally binding treaty for all governments to adopt by 2015, and come into effect starting 2020. New developments are also expected to come together in regards to details on climate finance — financial resources to assist developing countries in launching mitigation and adaptation efforts.
In the past three years, after the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference, climate change negotiations have taken baby steps toward progress. There is progress in the move toward low carbon economy. It is going into the right direction, but not moving at the speed and scale as demanded by science.
The fact is that greenhouse gas emissions are growing, not shrinking. Only last week, the UN Environment Program released report on rising greenhouse gas emissions, mostly driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
The report found that the concentration of the emissions in the atmosphere is up about 20 percent since 2000 — making it much harder to reach the goal of bringing emissions down by 14 percent by 2020, to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial levels.
The World Meteorological Organization also reported last week that the concentrations of the main global warming pollutant — carbon dioxide — reached a record high last year — up to 40 percent from the industrial period.
Scientists have warned that failure to contain those emissions, blamed for setting off climate change, could pose dangerous ramifications, worsening the many crises the world has been dealing with today, triggering sea level rise, deadly heat waves and drought, to causing energy insecurity, water crisis and food shortage.
So far, all developed countries and 55 developing countries, including Indonesia, that pledged to cut back its carbon emissions by 26 percent from the current level by 2020, have made voluntary mitigation pledges to cut emissions.
But, the voluntary pledges are not enough and Doha should think forward with more ambitious plans to cut emissions than the targets currently laid on the table. The wide gap between developed and developing countries, blamed as the main sticking point in slowing down past negotiation progress, might put the Doha conference at risk.
Brazil, China, India and South Africa, known as the Basic bloc, warned last week the conference will not advance unless developed countries promise ambitious emission cuts. They also insist that a new treaty to replace Kyoto should still divide rich and poor nations.
Developed countries, on the other hand, are eager to start negotiations on the new treaty that caps emissions from all countries, especially fast-growing economies like China and India, the world’s first and third biggest emitters, respectively.
But, to ensure the conference’s success, they only need to remember a simple fact — climate change is a global problem that requires global effort to address. Emissions respect no boundaries.