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What To Expect In Doha: An Overview of This Year’s UN Climate Change Negotiations

Here's an overview of the talks and what the results of US elections may mean for the Obama administration’s positions during them.

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The Clean Development Mechanism, designed under the KP, is the only carbon market for developing countries.  The CDM allows carbon credits to be earned for projects which reduce greenhouse gases in developing countries.  Successfully reforming the CDM will help to ensure a significant stream of finance for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries continues, and in this respect is likely the most valuable part of the Doha negotiations over the future of the KP.

Some developed countries that were pushing back against developing countries on the acceptable levels of ratification have already opted out of a second KP, such as New Zealand.  Canada, Russia, and Japan also announced intentions not to participate.

Advancing a work plan for the Durban Platform

The Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) is on the agenda during the second week of talks in Doha.  Progress on the ADP is contingent on the outcome of the KP because many developing countries will likely not begin work in earnest on the ADP if there is not agreement on a second commitment period of the KP.

In the final outcome at Durban, the parties agreed that by 2015 they would create a “protocol, legal instrument, or agreed outcome with legal force…to come into effect and be implemented from 2020.” The Platform also called on parties to increase ambition and propose measures to close the gap between the pledges made under the Copenhagen Accord and the reductions needed to keep global temperature increase at 2C.   Parties agreed to a process that “shall raise the level of ambition” of mitigation efforts consistent with the next major report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be released between 2013 and 2015.

As we have  argued, the most significant achievement of the Durban Platform is to create a process that will culminate in an international agreement that applies to all parties unlike the KP.  To cement this in place both the US and the EU opposed explicit reference to the “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) and equity in the Durban agreement.  Both of these ideas have been sued to stand for a hard and fast distinction between the obligations of developed and developing countries to reduce emissions. There are two work streams of the ADP — one dealing with the framework for an agreement and another on closing the mitigation gap. Both of these will be compromised if there is backsliding on the applicability of the agreement to all parties, which is quite possible given efforts to reinsert divisions between developed and developing countries in these negotiations and others around the world.

For example, an emerging negotiation block, the “Like Minded Developing Countries Group,” made up of about a dozen developing countries recently met to reaffirm the notion of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) in the June 2012 Rio Declaration.  They demand financial resources and technology transfer in exchange for national actions on climate change and  assert “that the process as well as the outcome of the Durban Platform in both work-streams are under the Convention and must therefore be in full accordance with its principles and provisions, especially equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.”

Efforts to enshrine CBDR are elsewhere in submissions to the ADP, such as  China’s ambition submission:

Developed country Parties should take the lead in reducing their emissions by undertaking ambitious mitigation commitments and fulfill their obligations of providing financial resources and transferring technology to developing country Parties in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention, in particular the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. The key to increase the level of ambitions to reduce emissions lies with the developed country Parties’ political will and the recognition of their historical responsibility.

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