Ambition deadlock frustrating climate talks in Doha

By Ed King
RTCC in Doha

Small island states vulnerable to the effects of climate change have raised concerns that with five days of the 2013 UN climate talks left, there is no deal on the table to prevent global temperatures rising to dangerous levels.

Negotiations in the Qatari capital continued over the weekend, and texts are expected to emerge on Monday and Tuesday, but poorer states in Africa and the Pacific Islands do not believe these will offer the financial and emission reduction assurances they have been looking for.

“In terms of a stock taking, we have not seen concrete progress on the issues that are important to ensuring the survival of all our members,” said Nauru’s Sai Navoti, lead negotiator for the The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) bloc of 43 island nations.

“How many COPs do we have to endure where we go back to our constituencies, and say next year we will increase ambition to reduce emissions? Next year we will see finance. Next year we will save the climate. No more next years.”


The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advises that industrialised countries need to cut emissions by 25-40% in 2020 from 1990 levels to prevent a potentially catastrophic temperature rise of 2°C.

The 195 nations taking part in Doha are working on a 2015 deal to come into effect in 2020, but currently the only legally binding climate treaty is the Kyoto Protocol, which only covers around 15% of global emissions.

While the terms of the Protocol’s proposed second commitment period (CP2) have effectively been agreed by participating industrialised countries they are unlikely to please small island states.

The EU says it cannot offer any firm financial pledges, and will not increase its 2020 target of 20% emission reductions at this round of talks. It also insists that CP2 will run for eight years from 2013-2020, rather than the five-year period AOSIS wants.

Outside the countries taking part in CP2 a bleak picture is emerging in terms of short-term climate ambition.

Canada, Japan and New Zealand have already ruled themselves out of CP2. US President Barack Obama says he will address climate change if it can help create jobs. Russia’s position is still a mystery.


With the fast start finance programme expiring shortly, it appears many countries may wait for arriving ministers before announcing their planned donations.

There have been rumours of ‘large sums of money’ that could be pledged on Tuesday and Wednesday, with some speculating that the Qatari Emir may use his address to the high-level plenary to promise funds.

EU negotiators maintain financial assurances have been given and that climate finance will not dry up in 2013, but admit that there will be no new pledges from the bloc in Doha.


Reports released by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the International Energy Agency and World Bank in the build-up to the Doha round of UN talks underlined the need to cut global fossil fuel emissions as soon as possible.

And a paper in the journal Science released on Friday revealed that sea levels rose by about 11mm from 1992 to 2011 due to melting ice sheets in the polar regions.

Speaking ahead of his flight to Doha, the UK’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said these reports made clear why more emission reduction measures need to be adopted ahead of the proposed 2015 global climate treaty.

“I want to see concrete actions to reduce emissions before that,” he said. “Adoption of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with robust accounting and transparency arrangements for those not in Kyoto, and to give developing countries comfort on the continuing provision of finance.

“Tackling climate change is a complex task. But if we act we can still avert climate change’s worst impacts. 2 degrees is still within reach if we can muster the political will.”

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