AOSIS: Rich countries must up carbon cutting ambition in Doha

By Tierney Smith

The latest round of UN climate talks will fail if developed countries do not increase their short-term mitigation ambition to 2020, negotiators from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) have warned.

This will involve countries, meeting in Doha, Qatar next week, pledging strong targets under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and those not bound by it to also make their own ambitious, non-binding pledges.

Delegates RTCC spoke to warned that without this raised ambition before 2020, the focus of the climate talks would have to shift towards focusing on adaptation as runaway climate change takes hold.

“The most important thing to remember is that launching a work programme on short-term mitigation ambition was central to the agreement that was reached last year in Durban,” Marlene Moses, Ambassador on climate change for Nauru, and current chair of AOSIS told RTCC.

“The science is clear: if we don’t reduce emissions in the short term, long before 2020, the opportunity to avert a climate catastrophe – including the loss of entire nations – may irrevocably be lost.”

For islands like Kiribati, which sits less than 2 metres above sea level, adaptation measures will be limited with rising sea levels (Source: Rafeal Avila Coya/Creative Commons)

AOSIS played a key role at last year’s summit in Durban. In joining forces with the EU – and bridging the gap between the developed and developing world – the coalition was paramount in getting the Durban Platform agreed.

The bloc’s presence has been growing at the UNFCCC negotiations for sometime. In 2009, then-president of the Maldives Mohamed Naseed made an impassioned speech calling on countries to raise ambition to allow his island nation’s survival, which helped push through the Copenhagen Accord.

This year the group will be putting their weight behind a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which they say is essential to ensure the increased ambition is achieved.

“We must ensure that the second commitment period [of the Kyoto Protocol] comes through for a five-year period,” Collin Beck, Ambassador for climate change for the Solomon Islands told RTCC. “Why five-years? Because the ambition level is fairly low, and is inadequate to meet, in our case, the below 1.5°C target.”

Other countries, led by the European Union, are calling for a longer period of eight-years to be agreed, taking countries to 2020, when the new global deal should take over.

LCA Negotiations

Countries’ ambition in the build up to a new deal will also rest on the decisions reached in the Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) stream of negotiations, which are expected to draw to a close in Doha.

Set up at the Bali climate talks in 2007, the LCA track covers those issues which were not dealt with under the Kyoto Protocol. The stream of work has already been extended by one year.

AOSIS say they want to see the successful conclusion of the LCA track.

For them this would include an agreement to ensure emissions peak by 2015, followed by a sharp decline in greenhouse gas emissions globally of 85% by 2050 – compared to 1990 levels.

They are also calling for a structure to be set for the 2013-2015 review of the global target for temperature rise. Currently set at below 2°C, island states want to see it strengthened to below 1.5°C.

Other countries including the LDCs and G77 and China are also calling for the LCA track to result in such a formal agreement.

“Some developing countries are unwilling to close the AWG-LCA before there has been a thorough assessment of whether the Bali mandate has been achieved and it is not clear whether they are prepared to block the closure,” said Ronny Jumeau, Ambassador on climate change for the Seychelles.

“AOSIS would prefer that progress on a new agreement and especially closing the mitigation gap, be speeded up, but would nevertheless look to further consultation and discussion with its developing partners.”

Funding 

Finance also looks to be a key sticking point for the success of the Doha talks.

As the fast-start finance – around $30 billion pledged for developing countries to 2012 – comes to an end, poorer nations will be looking to richer countries to scale up their assistance towards the $100 billion annually, pledged in Copenhagen in 2009.

Ambassador Moses says she believes that the finance to date has not been nearly adequate.

“The challenge has been that the inadequate support received has been neither fast, nor predictable,” she said. “If and when we do receive provision, it is unclear whether it’s Fast Start Finance or something else.”

Over the last year the Green Climate Fund has come much closer to being operational. A host country, South Korea, was announced and the board and co-chairs have now been chosen.

But still no money has been pledged.

AOSIS say it is time rich nations highlight how they are going to fill the fund.

They also stress that this finance should be new, additional, predictable and adequate.

“AOSIS has strongly encouraged developed countries to commit to contribute to the fund once it is operational,” said Ambassador Jumeau. “A clear statement by developed countries in Doha that the Green Climate Fund would not be an empty shell would build trust.”

Loss and Damage

Many small island’s depend on the ocean and coral for their food and livelihoods (Source: USFWS Pacific/Creative Commons)

Small island states are some of the most vulnerable to climate change. With encroaching sea levels, adaptation for these countries would be minimal and many governments are already considering the idea of mass relocation.

Over the last year, the government of Kiribati – where the majority of the country’s islands sit less than 2 metres above sea level – has been linked with migration plans to both Fiji and East Timor.

Impacts are already being felt. Ocean acidification and warming waters are impacting coral reef ecosystems, which communities rely on for food and tourism. Storm surges are also hitting the islands, and in 2011 Tuvalu had to be airlifted fresh water as intruding salt water impacted their supply.

AOSIS are calling for an international mechanism to address and compensate for these impacts.

“It is becoming the situation where when you speak of sea-level rise, it is becoming irreversible for us already,” said Ambassador Beck. “This is where we would also like to see some sort of mechanism established for loss and damage.”

Ambassador Moses added that key decisions have to be made in Doha, for countries to move forward from the Durban platform and make sure the discussions do not move backwards.

“Short-term mitigation ambition is paramount because if we fail to make reductions now, the discussions moving forward will look very different with issues of adaptation and forced relocation on previously unimaginable scales coming to the fore,” she said.

“A second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is essential to that goal. Finally, with the impacts growing more severe – establishing an international mechanism on Loss and Damage is also critical.”

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