As ministers arrived at climate talks in the Qatari capital Doha, Greenpeace urged European countries not to take the side of Poland and Russia in a battle over whether to maintain the Kyoto Protocol’s biggest loophole and to make real progress on a deal to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Europe has traditionally been seen as a progressive force in climate negotiations, but stands to lose that reputation at the Doha talks, Greenpeace warned.
In dispute is the preservation of the excess emissions rights – or ‘hot air’ – that allows governments to trade their way out of real climate action. The leftover hot air granted to former Soviet and Eastern European countries in 1997 is estimated to total 13 billion tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to 2.5 times the annual emissions of Europe.
A deep split among European governments has overshadowed the first week of the talks, but so far the common EU position favours the loophole.
“The prospect of catastrophic climate change needs to change the mindsets of political leaders,” said Kaiser.
“Coal-rich Poland is so far dictating the European Union position on hot air. Ministers coming to Doha must make a choice now about whether they have the courage to defend people from the impacts of climate change, or whether they will pander to Brussels politics. If Europe makes the wrong call here, it will lose the trust of the rest of the world.”
Kyoto must go on
Greenpeace is demanding that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding cap of greenhouse gas emissions, be agreed on in Doha and that it does not carry over the ‘hot air’ excess emissions rights.
As ministers arrive in Doha, discussions are only just beginning under the two new workstreams agreed on at last year’s talks in Durban – one on increasing the ambition of emissions cuts in the next decade and one on planning the shape of a new global deal to be signed in 2015.
Progress is made harder by what developing countries see as bad faith on the part of industrialised countries. Greenpeace echoed the call from developing countries for an increase of climate finance toward the $100 billion a year by 2020 agreed on at the 2009 Copenhagen talks.
Not an act of faith
With ‘fast start finance’ – the $10 billion a year package agreed at Copenhagen – now running out in 2012 – and only vague and ad hoc promises about what happens now, there is a real risk of a ‘fiscal cliff’ in resourcing for countries to adapt to climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.
“It is almost impossible for countries to make long-term plans to adapt to climate change, or to deploy renewable sources of energy, if they have no confidence in how much money there will be available in future to support them,” said Kaiser.
“No one in business would make investments with so little certainty. It is ridiculous to expect hard-pressed governments and communities in some of the world’s poorest countries to do so as an act of faith.”
Noting that tropical forest destruction is responsible for approximately 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Kaiser added: “This week ministers must agree rules that provide countries with incentives to protect their forests, not merely with cheap offset schemes for the coal and oil industry. Oversight must be at the national level, not left to subnational approaches that are subject to abuse.”