Climate activists livid at absence of decisive action at Doha

Climate activists were livid at another squandered opportunity for a decisive action to save the planet from catastrophic effects of global warming.

Doha: As negotiators heaved a sigh of relief at having salvaged the Doha talks with an 11th-hour pact that kept the Kyoto Protocol alive, climate activists were livid at another squandered opportunity for a decisive action to save the planet from catastrophic effects of global warming.

After marathon talks that stretched by a day, sleep- deprived diplomats from almost 200 countries agreed last night to a face-saving deal that would see the historic Kyoto Protocol extended by eight years albeit without any new or ambitious commitments to cut greenhouse gases.

They also decided to put off by another year a concrete decision on ways to mobilise long-term finance for poorer nations to carry forward their mitigation efforts and at the same time launch adaptation measures to deal with the rapidly visible impacts of climate change.

Coming in the backdrop of megastorm Sandy that devastated a major portion of the US east coast and more recently cyclone Bopha whose victims and losses the Philippines is still counting, the talks, however, failed to move world nations into visible actions that would immediately curtail emissions to save the planet.

The deal on the Kyoto Protocol extension was struck after much bickering and despite objections by Russia as well as reservations by the US, and after the host Qatar made repeated pleas to save the failing talks.

The Climate Action Network (CAN), an umbrella group of 700 NGOs from around the world, said the Doha talks had failed to deliver increased cuts to carbon pollution, nor did they provide any credible pathway to USD 100 billion per year in finance by 2020 to help the poorest countries deal with climate change.

"Two weeks of negotiations have not altered that path and that politicians need to reflect the consensus around climate change through funds, targets and effective action," said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.

Others accused the developed world, singling out the US as the biggest deal blocker, of having failed in delivering their responsibility to save the planet and help the poor ones foot the bills of a catastrophe for which they are least responsible.

WWF head of delegation, Tasneem Essop, said Doha was supposed to be an important element in setting up a fair, ambitious and binding deal in 2015 and therefore needed to rebuild trust and instill equity.

"These talks have failed the climate and they have failed developing nations... The Doha decision has delivered no real cuts in emissions, it has delivered no concrete finance, and it has not delivered on equity," said Essop.

The activists said the talks delivered at best a very vague outcome that would require enormous political will to yield increased ambition.

Climate finance that was at the core of this year`s talks failed to make any consequential progress with the countries only reaffirming their commitments and laying out no quantitative results on the table as to how they would upscale finances for the USD 100 billion Green Climate Fund.

"Developing countries have come here in good faith and have been forced to accept vague words and no numbers," said Tim Gore, International Climate Change Policy Advisor for Oxfam, calling it a "betrayal."

Wael Hmaidan, Director of CAN-International, said it`s time people demand leadership from their governments on the issue of climate change before it was too late.

Earlier the talks were fraught with deep divisions as rich nations led by the US refused to commit to finances for poorer countries to deal with adaptation and mitigation measures.

The idea of equity and common but differential responsibility (CBDR) in preventing global warming, that has been pushed hard by countries like India, returned to the table strongly and found mention in the texts of the agreement but the US made its reservations very clear on this.

The principle of equity has more or less been anathema to the US which has consistently pushed for major developing countries like India and China to share the burden of emission cuts.

G-77 and BASIC group of Brazil, South Africa, India and China pushed hard enough to ensure that the principles of the Convention, including equity and CBDR, would be applied to a post-2020 deal as well, even as that regime brings some major developing countries under some legally enforceable obligations to cut emissions.

Rejecting this notion, the US said it reserved the right to not be party to future talks.

Todd Stern, the chief US negotiator, who came in for stinging criticism from non-governmental bodies for his role at the climate talks, said the principle of CBDR also needs to address "evolving circumstances."

"In Durban we said if we are going to do CBDR, we say that should include evolving circumstances and represent wherever you are, 2012, 2020, rather than CBDR 1992. We said fine, include CBDR but put a reference to evolving circumstances.

"There should be time and space to have serious discussions this year about how to understand equity and CBDR in the new world that we are trying to negotiate for," he said.

India too made it clear that any future negotiations will be difficult if they are not based on the principles of the Convention.

"Equity is the basis on which future negotiations will be carried out. We are not happy with all the parts of the text. Some areas are extremely problematic," said Mira Mehrishi, India`s lead negotiator.

The problematic areas include framework for sectoral approaches, which is lacking, weak reference to technology- related intellectual property rights and no concrete commitments on finance.

The parties might have agreed to a bare minimum but even this did not satisfy all.

Russia vociferously opposed the limitations put on the carry over of surplus carbon quotas or Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) to a second commitment period of Kyoto as several countries pledged they would not put such credits in KP 2.

Despite Russia`s continued protests, the Conference of the Parties (COP) President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah of Qatar said: "it was my sense that the decision reflects the will of party as a whole to resolve Doha".

Oleg Shamanov, Deputy Russian negotiator whose objections were overruled at the last minute, called it an "outrageous violation and absolutely unacceptable conduct of business."

"The voice of Russia was heard today very clearly by all countries, before and after the adoption of the text. The objection was very clear to everyone, but it would have been a change to the text that would not have allowed for those texts to be adopted," said UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres.