Climate summit's 2015 goal
It is an annual ritual: nearly 200 nations sit down at the end of each year for two weeks of glacially paced negotiations meant to stop global warming. Meanwhile, leading scientific and economic bodies warn the best evidence suggests time is fast running out to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Starting Monday it is the turn of the oil-dominated Qatar to host the latest major United Nations’ climate summit.
On the agenda will be extending the world’s only climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the first stage of which is due to expire at the end of 2012. Nations will also try set a timeline to negotiate a new climate deal by 2015, if successful, will for the first time include emissions targets for both rich and poor countries. It would take effect in 2020.
Ahead of the talks old tensions are once again emerging. In a pre-meeting statement, the powerful BASIC bloc of major developing countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - said any new 2015 deal must be based on the long-held principles that rich and developing nations have different degrees of responsibility to cut emissions.
But some wealthy nations, the US in particular, say the 2015 agreement must end that divide and recognise the extraordinary growth in emissions from China and India, in particular.
Australia has joined the European Union and a handful of other small developed nations in indicating it will sign-up for Kyoto 2, with some conditions, as a bridge to a deal covering all countries. Other major rich countries such as the US, Japan, and Canada are refusing.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet – who is not attending this year’s talks – said Australia hopes the Doha summit will establish a formal process for negotiating a new agreement. That includes closing down old negotiating tracks that separated developed and developing countries.
‘‘We need to overcome that separation and have a single negotiating process ... to get to an agreed outcome where all major emitters are in,’’ he said.
Observers are also watching how Australia registers its target of cutting emissions to 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 under Kyoto 2.
As the Kyoto target is expressed as an average of annual emissions in the years covered by the treaty, Australia will have to translate the 5 per cent cut into another form. Calculations by lobby group the Climate Institute finds that depending on how this is done the target could allow an increase in Australia's emissions on those in 1990, the usual Kyoto baseline.
Director of the ANU’s Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, Dr Frank Jotzo, said this would send a poor signal to the world. Australia drew significant flak in the first Kyoto stage for taking on a target that allowed emissions to increase eight per cent on 1990 levels.
Mr Combet said the target registered will be consistent with Australia’s promised 5 per cent cut, but will maintain the flexibility to adopt conditional, but more ambitious, targets of up to 25 per cent. He said he saw no problem if the target is expressed as being higher than 1990 because Australia had been clear on what its emissions cuts would be.
Another major issue at the talks is meeting a $100 billion a year by 2020 commitment for financial contributions from rich to help poor countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.
A report released Sunday by Oxfam says developing countries face a climate ‘‘fiscal cliff’’ at the end of 2012, as early commitments from rich countries are due to expire.
Oxfam says rich countries at Doha must scale up their climate finance commitments and consider innovative proposals to raise the future funds.