The 2012 UN Climate Change Conference opens in Doha, Qatar, today at the Qatar National Convention Centre and will continue until 7 December. The Conference includes the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 18) and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8). Five subsidiary bodies will also convene: the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), Ad Hoc Working Group on Annex I Parties’ Further Commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP).
Key issues include the adoption of amendments to the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period. Under the Convention, the AWG-LCA is scheduled to present its final outcome and terminate its work. The COP will also hear a report from the ADP concerning progress made during the first year of its mandate to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” by 2015 to enter into force no later than 2020.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UNFCCC AND THE KYOTO PROTOCOL
The international political response to climate change began with the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, which sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate system. The Convention, which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has 195 parties.
In December 1997, delegates to COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan, agreed to a Protocol to the UNFCCC that commits industrialized countries and countries in transition to a market economy to achieve emission reduction targets. These countries, known as Annex I parties under the UNFCCC, agreed to reduce their overall emissions of six greenhouse gases by an average of 5% below 1990 levels between 2008-2012 (first commitment period), with specific targets varying from country to country. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005 and now has 192 parties.
LONG-TERM NEGOTIATIONS IN 2005-2009: Convening in Montreal, Canada, at the end of 2005, the first session of the CMP decided to establish the AWG-KP under Protocol Article 3.9, which mandates consideration of Annex I parties’ further commitments at least seven years before the end of the first commitment period. COP 11 created a process to consider long-term cooperation under the Convention through a series of four workshops known as “the Convention Dialogue.”
In December 2007, COP 13 and CMP 3 in Bali, Indonesia, resulted in agreement on the Bali Roadmap on long-term issues. COP 13 adopted the Bali Action Plan and established the AWG-LCA with a mandate to focus on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and a shared vision for long-term cooperative action. Negotiations on Annex I parties’ further commitments continued under the AWG-KP. The deadline for concluding the two-track negotiations was in Copenhagen in 2009. In preparation, both AWGs held several negotiating sessions in 2008-2009.
COPENHAGEN: The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, took place in December 2009. The high-profile event was marked by disputes over transparency and process. During the high-level segment, informal negotiations took place in a group consisting of major economies and representatives of regional and other negotiating groups. Late in the evening of 18 December, these talks resulted in a political agreement: the “Copenhagen Accord,” which was then presented to the COP plenary for adoption. After 13 hours of debate, delegates ultimately agreed to “take note” of the Copenhagen Accord. In 2010, over 140 countries indicated support for the Accord. More than 80 countries also provided information on their national mitigation targets or actions. Parties also agreed to extend the mandates of the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP until COP 16 and CMP 6.
CANCUN: The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, took place in December 2010, where parties finalized the Cancun Agreements. Under the Convention track, Decision 1/CP.16 recognized the need for deep cuts in global emissions in order to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C. Parties agreed to keep the global long-term goal under regular review and consider strengthening it during a review by 2015, including in relation to a proposed 1.5°C target. They took note of emission reduction targets and nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) communicated by developed and developing countries, respectively (FCCC/SB/2011/INF.1/Rev.1 and FCCC/AWGLCA/2011/INF.1, both issued after Cancun). Decision 1/CP.16 also addressed other aspects of mitigation, such as: measuring, reporting and verification (MRV); and REDD+.
The Cancun Agreements also established several new institutions and processes, including the Cancun Adaptation Framework and the Adaptation Committee, and the Technology Mechanism, which includes the Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Network. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was created and designated as a new operating entity of the Convention’s financial mechanism governed by a 24-member board. Parties agreed to set up a Transitional Committee tasked with the Fund’s design and a Standing Committee to assist the COP with respect to the financial mechanism. Parties also recognized the commitment by developed countries to provide US$30 billion of fast-start finance in 2010-2012, and to jointly mobilize US$100 billion per year by 2020.
Under the Protocol track, the CMP urged Annex I parties to raise the level of ambition towards achieving aggregate emission reductions consistent with the range identified in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and adopted Decision 2/CMP.6 on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).
The mandates of the two AWGs were extended another year.
DURBAN: The UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, took place from 28 November to 11 December 2011. The Durban outcomes cover a wide range of topics, notably the establishment of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, a decision on long-term cooperative action under the Convention and agreement on the operationalization of the GCF. Parties also agreed to launch the new ADP with a mandate “to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.” The ADP is scheduled to complete negotiations by 2015. The outcome should enter into effect from 2020 onwards.
BONN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE 2012: This meeting took place from 14-25 May 2012 in Bonn, Germany. The conference comprised the 36th sessions of the SBI and SBSTA. It also included AWG-LCA 15, AWG-KP 17 and the first session of the ADP. Under the AWG-KP, the focus was on issues to be finalized for adopting a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and for the AWG-KP to conclude its work at CMP 8. Many outstanding questions remained, including the length of the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and carry-over of surplus units.
Under the AWG-LCA, debates continued on which issues require consideration so that the AWG-LCA can finalize its work at COP 18. Developed countries stressed “significant progress” and the various new institutions established in Cancun and Durban. Some developing countries identified the need to continue discussing issues required to fulfill the Bali Action Plan mandate.
Under the ADP, discussions centered on the agenda and the election of officers. After nearly two weeks of discussions, the ADP plenary agreed on the Bureau arrangements and adopted the agenda, initiating two work streams: one addressing matters related to paragraphs 2-6 of Decision 1/CP.17 (post-2020 regime) and the other addressing paragraphs 7-8 (enhancing the level of ambition during the pre-2020 timeframe), and agreed on the election of officers.
BANGKOK CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS 2012: This informal session took place from 30 August - 5 September 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand. Under the ADP, parties convened in roundtable sessions to discuss their vision and aspirations for the ADP, the desired results, and how these results can be achieved. Parties also discussed how to enhance ambition, the role of means of implementation and how to strengthen international cooperative initiatives, as well as the elements that could frame the ADP’s work.
The AWG-KP focused on resolving outstanding issues to ensure successful completion of the group’s work in Doha by recommending an amendment to the CMP for adoption. This would allow a second commitment period under the Protocol to start immediately from 1 January 2013. The AWG-KP produced informal papers outlining the elements for a Doha decision adopting amendments to the Kyoto Protocol.
The AWG-LCA continued working on practical solutions to fulfill specific mandates from COP 17. The focus was on outcomes needed to conclude the group’s work in Doha, how to reflect the elements in the final outcome of the AWG-LCA and whether additional work might be required beyond COP 18.
12TH BASIC MEETING ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Ministers from Brazil, China, India and South Africa (BASIC) convened from 20-21 September 2012, in Brasilia, Brazil. Representatives from Algeria, Argentina, Barbados and Qatar also attended as per the BASIC-plus approach. In a joint statement, the ministers emphasized the importance of the final adoption of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol as “a key deliverable for Doha and an essential basis for ambition within the regime.” Ministers urged Annex I Parties to present concrete information on their quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives for inscription under the second commitment period.
SECOND UNFCCC WORKSHOP ON LONG-TERM FINANCE: This workshop was held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 1-3 October 2012. Parties, private sector and civil society stakeholders held in-depth discussions on new and innovative sources of climate finance, various approaches and strategies to mobilize climate finance, and ways to strengthen developing countries’ capacity for improved access to climate finance.
SECOND MEETING OF GCF: During this meeting, which took place from 18-20 October 2012 in Songdo, Incheon City, Republic of Korea, the GCF Board selected Songdo, Incheon City, as the host city of the Fund. They also discussed: long-term work plan and priorities of the Board; status of resources and administrative budget of the Interim Secretariat and the Interim Trustee; arrangements for establishing the independent Secretariat, including the selection of the Executive Director; and arrangements between the COP and the Fund. The decision will be presented for endorsement at COP 18.
PRE-COP 18/CMP 8 MINISTERIAL MEETING: This meeting themed “Meet the Challenge, Make the Change - Moving Forward with a Balanced Perspective,” was held from 21-23 October 2012 in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Over 250 delegates, including ministers from 50 countries, sought to make preliminary progress on a number of issues, including working towards a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.
13TH BASIC MEETING ON CLIMATE CHANGE: This meeting was held in Beijing, China, from 19-20 November 2012. In line with the BASIC-plus approach, representatives from Algeria, Egypt, Fiji, Nepal and Qatar participated in the meeting as observers. In a joint statement, ministers confirmed their understanding that developed countries that are not parties to the Kyoto Protocol or do not participate in its second commitment period would not benefit from the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. Ministers noted the intention of the EU to “stop the clock” on the implementation of the international aspects of the EU emissions trading system legislation by one year. They reaffirmed the importance of multilateralism in addressing climate change in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention and reiterated their strong opposition to any unilateral measures on international aviation and shipping, as well as similar intentions in other sectors.