Live blog: Closing hours of Doha climate summit

6 December, 2012 | GROW

Read the latest from behind the scenes with Oxfam's team as UN climate talks draw to a close in Doha, Qatar. (Time stamps are Arabia Standard Time - AST).

20:05 Though further speeches are still taking place here at the Qatari National Convention Centre here in Doha, the summit is effectively over. Developing countries have been pressed, in the final late hours, into a 'take it or leave it' agreement. Read Oxfam's final press release.

Poor countries came to Doha facing a climate 'fiscal cliff', and at the end of these talks they are now left hanging by their fingertips off the edge.

Celine Charveriat, Oxfam



19:45 We're now hearing speeches from the floor in response to the agreement that's just been pushed through by the Qatari presidency. A statement on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a collection of island particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, reveals immediate dissatisfaction: "We see the package before us as deeply disappointing. It is likely to lock us into a trajectory of 3, 4, or 5 degrees [of warming]. Much, much more is needed."


Many small Pacific island nations are, at their highest point, just metres above sea level. Photo: Oxfam Australisa

18:51 And now the chair is ramming through all decisions, without even a chance for the brave Least Developed Countries to stand up and voice their opinions.

18:45 This summit has been a test of strength for negotiators and for people observering them alike as the hours and hours have ticked by. First Russia made their stand, then Poland, and now it is Ukraine and Kazakhstan -- all holding up agreement on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (the existing legally binding agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gases). For hours and hours we have waited. And as I write, the chair has just restarted the proceedings. For better of for worse, things are likely to go through swiftly now.

16:40 While we continue to wait for discussions to begin again, I just had a quick conversation with Noah Zimba, from the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, who summed up the sense of dissatisfaction that has run through the negotiating corridors over the last two weeks.

The time for dialogue it shrinking. And as more time passes, we're facing a more and more dangerous and uncertain future.




15:50 With only slow progress being made at UN climate talks in recent years, one of the questions that's often levelled at the negotiations is whether the UN is the right place to tackle the problem, or whether the world should look elsewhere. Oxfam's Celine Charveriat gives her perspective.

After days of paralysis and in the face of an extremely weak outcome in the negotiations, some might want to blame the process for continuing inaction. But what is the alternative? There is only one planet and one atmosphere. No country on its own will be able to prevent catastrophic climate change from devastating its economy and hurting its citizens.

Like it or not, this process is the only show in town to get a global agreement on climate change. The lack of political will from leaders to take the necessary steps to limit global greenhouse gas emissions is at the heart of the stalemate here in Doha. Governments must move beyond their petty disagreements, unite and move the world onto a low-carbon development path.

15:30 Can the Doha climate summit end in agreement? The Guardian's John Vidal (who was here at the summit until yesterday), gives his perspective.

15:20 It was looking like we were just about to get things moving again here in Qatar, with discussions already running a day over. Well, it seemed that way, until a representative from the UNFCCC just took to the stage and made announcement -- saying that several of the governments who have stated that they wish to sign up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol have forgotten to do this formally and send through 'written consent.' Oops! Given that they've all had a full two weeks to do this, the words epic fail come to mind.

13:05 As we described last night (scroll down for past updates), 'loss and damage' continues to be a critical issue at the summit, with heated debates late into the night here at the conference centre. The BBC's Roger Harrabin sums it up in an article he posted this morning.

There has been a historic shift in the UN climate talks in Qatar, with the prospect of rich nations having to compensate poor nations for losses due to climate change.

12:30 Hi all. Apologies for the delay in updates. Just to outline what's happening now: The way this process works is that a new package of texts (or proposals) were released this morning by the presidency of these meetings -- the Qatari government -- for agreement. Think of it as a plan of action for what should be done over the next period of 12 months, and into the future, to tackle global warming. Government delegations are poring over these texts now, deciding whether they accept or disagree with them, and then after that there'll be a plenary meeting where government representatives from around the world make speeches and respond. In short, we could be done by dinner time. Or we could be here into the night again. And speaking of late nights, here's a photo of our somewhat-weary-looking team that was taken in the small hours of yesterday evening.


09:05 After a few short hours sleep, we're back with more news from the conference. There's been plenty of overnight bartering, and new texts have been issued for discussion. It is these documents which will settle the final outcome, so we should know within the next few hours where progress has been made and where it has not. Stay tuned.

03:35 OK, we've just got word that the talks are on hold until the morning. So we're signing off for now. Here's a quick update from Tim Gore, our climate change policy advisor, to wrap things up for the night. We'll be back in the morning!

We've entered the zombie zone in Doha. Negotiators and observers are wandering around with red-rimmed eyes and are pacing the halls to keep their blood circulating. It's in these hazy hours that the squeeze really comes on poor countries from the rich and powerful players. With only small delegations, there are limits to the number of all-nighters any negotiator can take, and this is the second in a row for many of them. That is one of the main reasons we are here, to help them where we can and to try to prevent the worst negotiating tactics from big bullying countries.

Overall, the package still looks pretty bad for the poorest: rumours continue to circulate about the state of the finance agreement, but none that suggest it's getting any better. Meanwhile, one issue has started to grab attention in a small upstairs room. It's called "Loss and Damage" - and it is about how to help communities with climate impacts that they can't adapt to. If you want to know what this means in practice, think sinking Pacific islands or ask yourself where the millions of people in Bangladesh will go when rising sea levels poison their land with salt water. It's one of Oxfam's top tips for the issues that could yet break this COP. As I write we can hear the spontaneous chants of youth activists upstairs. It's a late night, but one that will be important for the fight against climate change.

03:20 Though the night draws on, a group of youth activists just made a strong show of solidarity with developing countries as they stood in the corridors between meeting rooms and shouted "don't back down," encouraging negotiators to not accept a weak deal.


01:55 Update on the finance text(s) we mentioned earlier. This is a key issue for Oxfam -- we're keen to see that rich countries keep to their promise of providing life-saving cash to help vulnerable communities. It's the kind of money that would help pay for projects like the one in the film from Bolivia below. Sadly, the texts are disappointing. Some speed reading of the documents revealed a gaping hole in that there is zero reassurance that climate finance will go up not down next year. That's in spite of the commitment developed countries made three years ago, at the Copenhagen summit, that it would scale up to $100bn per year from 2012 to 2020.

01:00 Another quick break here while negotiators reconvene. So while we wait, here's a video. It's a project in Bolivia local communities are reviving ancient farming methods in an effort to adapt increasingly extreme weather.

00:40 After a pause in updates, we're back with more BREAKING NEWS as we approach 1AM. This time it's about something called 'loss and damage.' Possibly the best example to describe the issue is Bangladesh. Because approximately 10 million people live less than a meter above sea level, if oceans rise toward the top end of predictions, people simply won't be able to adapt no matter how hard they might try. The damage will be permanent, and so the issue is -- who pays? Is it down to Bangladesh, a country with very small per capita emissions, or should other countries be liable to pay compensation? There is no existing mechanism in the UN system to deal with this, so it's a very new and somewhat contencious issue. Discussions on the matter over the last two weeks have now come to a complete stalemate, and with G77 countries and China at loggerheads with the US, it's unlikely we'll see any movement until the early morning.

22:20 Though there are a few hours of negotiations still to go here in Doha, and any outcome is still possible, the mood isn't particularly positive, as Evans Tembo from the Zambia Youth Climate Forum says:

"Climate change science came from developed countries but the politicians of those countries refuse to listen to their own scientists. I thought progress would be made but really Doha has been a disappointment."



21:50 The photo below is the view from the plenary session earlier today. And the man on the big TV screens in the background is Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, the president of this year's climate summit. With Qatar being the first Middle East state to host an international climate summit, and one of the highest per capita emitters in the world, many have hoped that it'd take the opportunity to declare more ambitious plans to cut emissions. What came through in the end was joint statement from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE that was posted quietly UNFCCC website a few hours ago. Here's a line from the document: "The countries proposing this approach are prepared to put forward their current actions and plans in pursuit of economic diversification that have co-benefits on GHG reductions." So basically that means "we'll investigate reducing emissions."


21:18 BREAKING NEWS: A new draft of the 'climate finance' text has landed. Well, I say text but there are actually five papers. Stay tuned for more about what this means...

20:55 With UN climate summits having a track record of going over their allocated time (the one last year in South Africa went on for an extra 36 hours), some of the attendees have started to run sweepstakes on just when it will end this year. Greenpeace's Ruth Davis sums it up in her tweet below.


#doha #cop18 UK delegation betting on it being all over in early hours tomorrow. All the water points are empty. Trying to tell us something

— ruth davis (@ruthdavis27) December 7, 2012

20:20 After the somewhat depressing previous update, here's something far more uplifting. Whilst the outcome of this summit may fall short of what's needed, there are sources of inspiration outside the negotiating rooms. COP18 in Qatar has given birth to an Arab Spring of climate activism in the region. For the first time ever, young people from 15 Arab countries have had their own voice at the UN climate change negotiations through the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM). Here's an interview with Reem Al Mealla, one of the young activists, that was recorded by our friends at RTCC the other day.

19:55 An ever-so-slightly terrifying infographic from The Guardian's Datablog lays out some of what may happen at each stage of temperature rise. For example, using all known fossil fuels left could results in sea levels rising by 1.43m, leaving Bangkok knee-deep in water, and increasing hurricane destructive-ness by up to 45%. So, a situation that's best avoided to say the least.


19:20 OK, so we're sat waiting through a stock-taking session with the President of the summit (who also happens to be Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar). Behind the scenes, government ministers will be trying to iron out some of the more difficult issues. There'll be some bartering and some haggling, with a deal likely to be struck sometime in the early hours of the morning. So in the mean time, here's a climate change cartoon (yes, you read that right, they do exist) for light relief.


18:15 One of the hot topics discussed at the talks this year is the issue of 'climate finance.' In his blog posted today, Oxfam's Phil Bloomer explains why it's so important and how the money can be raised in a sustainable way.

"There are innovative sources of finance like the financial transaction tax, a tax on aviation and shipping, or closing tax loopholes and havens, which could raise billions, were they to be implemented."



17:45 Yesterday, Naderev Saño, the lead negotiator of the Philippines delegation -- whose country has just in the last week been devastated by a powerful typhoon -- made an emotional plea in what could be one of the most stirring moments at an international conference in recent years. Typhoon Bopha marks just one event in what has been a year of extreme weather.

17:15 A question that's often asked about these events is 'why do they continue to be held year on year?' and 'is any progress made each time they take place?' So as a quick reminder, here are some of the headlines from the last few years of climate talks. Deep breath...

  • Copenhagen: A lot of expectation was put on this summit, however there were few major outcomes. The Copenhagen Accord was only "noted", as opposed to being properly accepted, by the UN. One major outcome, though, was a *pledge* that $100bn a year should be provided to developing countries (otherwise know as 'climate finance') to support them in adapting to climate change, with a down-payment of $30bn a year being made to cover 2011 and 2012.
  • Cancun: A relatively good year in terms of the negotiations. We saw a Green Climate Fund established -- setting out a clear way to scale up climate finance to $100bn a year that had been pledged in Copenhagen. There was also recognition that woefully inadequate emissions reduction targets should raised to keep up with the science.
  • Durban: Continued feet dragging from the likes of the US, Canada, Japan and Australia meant that in 2011 the talks only narrowly avoided a collapse. Though an agreement was made to continue the Kyoto Protocol (the world's only legally-binding agreement for cutting greenhouse gases), several key countries chose to not sign on to it.

17:00 To kick us off on this live blog, here's a quote from Tim Gore, our climate change policy advisor who's here in Doha this week, about how climate change and poverty are intrinsically linked.

"Our planet is heading for average global warming of 2.5-5 degrees this century. It is time to face up what this means for hunger and malnutrition for millions of people on our planet."

Comments

Authorization request for use of cartoon

To whom it may concern,

I'm producing a non-profit document on climate change adaptation in Mexico and would like to use the cartoon featured in this blog, on the Climate Summit, with the gentleman saying "What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?". Could you kindly provide information on whether or not this cartoon could be used free of charge?

Best regards

Colin Herron

 

Hi Colin.  The cartoon was

Hi Colin.  The cartoon was produced by Joel Pett.  If you scroll down to the end of this article then you'll see his email address to contact him and ask permission -- http://www.kentucky.com/2012/03/18/2115988/joel-pett-the-cartoon-seen-ro...

If you let him know how you'd like to use it then I'm sure he can advise.

Thanks

G8 Around The Corner

With the G8 around the corner, there is another opportunity to let the politicians hear a widely echoed voice on the things that matter, climate change, poverty and hunger being three of the most prominent.

But the worlds cash flow is so far out of kilter, that until the right people are taxed the resistance to the global cash flow reaching its equilibrium is too strong. Unfortunately, itis this cash flow that effects efforts on climate change, poverty and hunger. Politically we can try to encourage policy to help regulate and enforce a positive outcome but in truth, more people need to wake up to this and join the fight.

Cheers,

 

<a/ href="http://www.savemybacon.co.nz/about-us">SMB</a>

 

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