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Hard at work at the Qatar National Conference Center

Once again, it’s been a busy day at the COP! We met students from the College of the Atlantic, who write the amazing blog Earth in Brackets, and have sat in on numerous panels organized by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, FSC, and  Argentina, just to mention a few. More to come soon!

For a critical look at the WBCSD, go here

-Sophie

Day 4 of the two week long UNFCCC COP 18 has ended in Qatar. Already, delegates and members are sluggishly walking about of the QNCC fatigued by the long day of daily meetings, plenaries, side events and negotiations. However, it is no surprise that these climate talks are getting down to the nitty-gritty here in Doha. At the top of the agenda is the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s sole legally binding pact for reducing carbon emissions.

The treaty gives binding forces international political trust between nation and urges developed countries to commit to reduction targets,  in accordance with the convention and in line with what some nations claim is a historical responsibility to address the effects of past emissions.

Developing countries, including AOSIS and LDCs, agree that commitments under Kyoto are vital for meeting the UN’s target of keeping global temperature increase below two degrees celsius, a goal that cannot be hoped for if negotiations cannot be made.

The Durban Platform established a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of this year. One important question to be addressed here at DOHA is the length of the second commitment period. Delegation statements made both today and yesterday also expressed concern about the conversion of targets into QERLOS.

Post-2012, developing countries are calling for a five-year 2CP and a guaranteed high level of ambition among the developed nations. But the EU stood by an eight-year 2CP and claimed to the emerging economies that the period “should be seen as a floor, not as a ceiling.” In a veiled appeal to these countries, the EU stated, “we must treat EU and non-EU countries equally, and encourage consent and agreement upon ambition targets.”

Clearly, the battle lines have been drawn. But, each year we have seen the impacts of climate change accelerate, record temperatures set, record droughts and rising sea level rates. The profound frustration of COP18 is that the level of commitment and ambition – which is determined by the complex internal and external political dynamics within individual Annex 1 countries – will simply fail to prevent earth from reaching or surpassing the destructive 2-degree temperature mark.

At the end of the Kyoto Plenary, Ambassador Moses of Nauru pleaded for more: “For 7 years, Annex 1 parties have talked, but at some point the hard work must be done. How many more times to we have to be told that our experiment is irresponsible? How many more times do we have to be told that more must be done, and the best time to do more is now? How many times to the LDCs have to ask developed countries to do more before they step in? They must do more. The time for an increase in ambition is here. Annex 1 parties have agreed to take the lead, and they must now take the lead.”

– Samantha Santaniello

A South African woman took a powerful stand today in a panel we attended on the Green Climate Fund. She confronted panel representatives from developed countries on the issue of insufficient funding for change mitigation and adaptation in the developing world.

Standing up from the audience, the woman stated: “My ancestral lands are going to go through a 4 – 5 degree increase even if the world stays at 2 degrees… Grass stops growing at 38 degrees and our livestock will die. So whatever we have managed to preserve through genocide and colonisalition, we are going to lose through climate change. As an Indigenous person, when I lose my land, I lose my culture. I am sorry about your recession [but] I am experiencing a bit of compassion fatigue. I am humiliated that I have to stand here and say how much, where, how? So I’m asking you for whatever your ancestors have done; if you want the climate fund be the restorative justice it is meant to be, can we do it now? Don’t leave it for your children to share with mine.”

(quote courtesy of the Arab Youth Climate Movement.)

Changes in global climate are already threatening vulnerable ecosystems, and predictions of future effects are become more and more urgent.

It was a long second day at the UN climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar. The intensity of the conference can make it easy to forget where you are – that is, until you remember to look up. As visitors in Doha, we were immediately taken with its unlikely skyline. The city itself is unlikely: a shining metropolis built up from a desert in the span of only a few decades, and funded almost exclusively by domestic fossil fuel revenues.
As the first OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) nation to host a COP, Qatar’s very success brings up questions relevant to sustainability and climate change. Qatari citizens claim both the highest GDP and the highest fossil fuel emissions per capita in the world. A full 80% of Qatar’s actual residents are non-citizen immigrant workers, who come from other Arab countries, Africa, and Asia to do work that citizens of this wealthy nation choose not to do. Qatar’s restaraunts and supermarkets restaurants import 90% of their ingredients, as the nation has very little arable land of its own. There are few sidewalks in Doha, as Qataris who are able to drive usually do so exclusively. The mirrored towers that make up the downtown are luxurious and creatively designed, while its streets are full of cars from all over the world.

Image of the Doha skyline (courtesy of Ellis Pharma)

 

However, visitors to Doha for the 2012 United Nations climate discussions don’t have much time to spend looking at the view. For both observers (like us) and official parties, the COP 18 / CMP 8 workday begins early and ends after nightfall. Shuttle buses run every hour between hotels and the Qatari National Convention Center, a spacious and beautiful building several miles outside the city proper. At the conference center, the national delegations to the convention and various coalition groups (Coalition for Rainforest Nations, the European Union, OPEC, and Least Developed Countries, to name only a few) meet to strategize and negotiate according to official United Nations procedure.
All around them, representatives from the corporate and nonprofit world flow through the halls of the convention center in pursuit of their own agendas: networking with related professionals and groups, holding meetings, interacting with and lobbying the party delegates, and attending the many presentations and events held throughout the conference day. At the COP, academics and researchers mingle with youth activists and delegates, while representatives from interested government bodies peruse trade booths run by alternative energy entrepreneurs and the heads of fossil fuel companies lead forums on sustainability. Everyone is at the conference to make their voice heard, and it can get very loud.

More soon about the organization we are working with, Islands First, finance, and the problem of climate justice at the multilateral climate negotiations.

– Chloe Holden

 

Inside the Qatar National Convention Centre

السلام عليكم! Hello! We are Wesleyan students accompanying Professor Michael Dorsey of the College of the Environment to Doha, Qatar, where will be assisting him at the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from November 26-December 7.

It is late on Monday night, and we have just come back to our apartment after the first day of COP18. After obtaining our entry badges this morning, we attended a panel held by the Third World Network, where NGO representatives from China, Malaysia, the United States, and the EU spoke about a variety of challenges they perceive as proponents of equitable climate policies. All of the panelists spoke from the perspective of climate justice (an issue which we will expand on in future posts), expressing their disappointment with the United States and the European Union’s low ambition on mitigation efforts and finance commitments.

Monday also saw a meeting between Executive Secretary of COP18 Christiana Figueres and youth participants at the Conference (YOUNGO). Figueres is known for being receptive to youth activists in private or off the record, but often unable to act on her encouraging words in official meetings. YOUNGO members from a variety of countries asked Figueres questions ranging from how to incorporate gender issues into climate policy and how to fill the Green Climate Fund to her suggestions on how to make youth participation most effective and widespread. Her responses were encouraging but vague.

A highlight of the day was pushing the books. Dorsey asked us to engage with delegates at the convention and hand out free copies of What Next: Climate, Development and Equity. While the three of us approached the task with some trepidation, and were initially received with slight suspicion by the delegates, they soon warmed up and were largely very receptive. We ended up having some very productive conversations with male and female delegates from Tuvalu, Bangladesh, the UAE, France, and elsewhere about their hopes and expectations for COP18. We were struck by the variety of people at the conference center, from young people much like us to VIP diplomats from different countries and generations, all of whom seem anxious to get started and work hard for the interests they represent.

There is a visible youth presence here at COP18. As most youth participants are sponsored by NGOs and are not able to participate directly in negotiations, however, their momentum is channeled largely through alternative means of expression, including “intervention” speeches and protest actions on the periphery of the conference. That said, the COP is clearly an effective arena for youth activists from all over the world to organize and network. As Figueres said, youth in Doha are “sowing the seeds” for their future leadership.

Jet lag is setting in, so that’s all for now. We are very excited to be here, and will be covering a number of other topics in our future posts. Stay tuned for more coverage of the 2012 UN climate talks in Doha  – and hopefully some of our excursions into the city itself.

سلام‎

Salaam,

– Sophie, Sam, and Chloe

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