On Tuesday, November 22, 2012, the Goethe Institut in Washington, DC, in cooperation with the World Resources Institute and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, hosted a discussion on the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (November 26-Dec 7) in Doha, Qatar. The event, titled “What is at stake at COP18?,” was moderated by Ed Cameron, Director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute.
Andrew Light, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and Hans Verolme, Founder and Senior Strategy Adviser at the Climate Advisers Network were invited panelists who shared their perspectives on the current state of negotiations, progress achieved, and goals moving forward.
Cameron began the talk by highlighting positive outcomes at COP17 in Durban (2011): extension of the Kyoto Protocol, establishment of aGreen Climate Fund to provide finance for developing nations, and creation of a “Durban Platform,” a mechanism for pursuing a comprehensive climate agreement in 2015.
He believes that the most important objective of the upcoming talks is to rebuild trust among parties. Negotiations have been limited by cycles of mistrust due to ambitious promises made at past meetings that were later not kept. He also hopes to see the Long Term Cooperative Action (LCA) track of negotiations completed, and to see progress on the engineering of a 2015 agreement. Cameron believes that a rebuilt sense of trust and a strong multilateral approach (engagement of banks, securities, trade regime, businesses, civil society, etc.) have the potential to lead to sustained engagement in the process, and eventually to coordinated agreement and action among all of the parties.
Light studies the relationship between environmental policy and ethics, and leads theCenter for American Progress’s participation in the Global Climate Networkand efforts involving the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meetings. He believes that the recommitment of the Kyoto Protocol is the biggest issue on the table next week. Although the US negotiators will not be involved, he hopes they can rally for an ambitious and meaningful agreement. He has noticed the American perspective on climate shifting greatly over the last year; 2012’s droughts and intense weather events have brought about a new sense of urgency around climate issues. Light hopes that this translates to organized social will and leads to organization around meeting and exceeding any renewed Kyoto commitments without formal US Senate treaty ratification.
The biggest challenge of a new treaty will be agreeing about the division of carbon reduction responsibilities among developed, developing and undeveloped nations. But no matter what the negotiation outcomes are, the new treaty would be created in 2015 at the earliest, and won’t go into effect until 2020. The atmospheric carbon concentration is already too high and global temperature will rise over 2° Celsius. We need to find other ways to reduce emissions before 2020, and Light believes the biggest step is a commitment to phase out HFCs, as described by the North American Amendment Proposal to the Montreal Protocol. There are 110 countries that support this amendment and he hopes to see organization around implementation in Doha.
Hans Verolme, a Berlin-based strategy advisor on international climate policy, says his perspective has been strongly influenced by development work in India and Africa, where climate-driven events has been impacting livelihoods for decades. His strongest message is that the “all of the above” energy strategy is dangerous to carbon reduction progress, and difficult transitions must be made if we hope to shift to a low carbon global economy. He believes there must be transition financing in place to phase out coal industries and support shifts to low carbon industries; while there is social and political will in the European Union to support this, the same sense of urgency and awareness is not present in the US. Furthermore, the rate at which these economic and political changes must be made to support ambitious mitigation goals might be impossibly fast. He hopes that in Doha and in years to come, US leaders and European leaders can come together, share lessons learned, and organize around climate more seriously. Verolme believes that these conversations will chart a different path for our future.
Cameron, Light, and Verolme concluded the discussion with hopeful thoughts about expected progress in Doha, and optimism about a state of transition in US perspectives that could lead to increased engagement in the negotiation process at future meetings.
Angelica Murdukhayeva, Washington, DC, HII Contributing Blogger