Climata Change News - January 2013

The main results of the Climate Negotiations at Doha


Between 26 November and 7 December the latest round on climate negotiations took place under the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Since EU countries were preoccupied with the aftermath of the financial crisis and economic recession, observers did not expect the EU to come with a strong mandate to the table. From other main polluting industrialized countries no strong mandates were expected either. Thus the poorest and most vulnerable people to climate shocks were not to expect a lot from the outcome of the talks. Indeed, most analysts agree that no significant progress was made today, but that there is an opportunity for progress in the future. However, postponing real measures will only increase the costs today for people already suffering from climate shocks and for future generations.   


Concretely, no new carbon cuts were agreed during the negotiations and only a couple of industrialized countries signed up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. There is low coverage of the Protocol, with the signatory countries representing merely 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, new research has proven that in order to tackle global warming more ambitious reductions will be needed. The EU, which has already reached its own target of reducing 20% of its emissions by 2020, should have displayed more ambition and taken up a pioneering role. 


The next issue on the agenda was climate finance. Developing nations and African Ministers in particular, were asking of the industrialized countries to follow through on the financial pledges they have made earlier. They asked for predictable finance, which must be additional to current allocations on humanitarian relief and development. They also asked for better reporting, monitoring and verification of this finance. This funding is crucial for developing countries, which are vulnerable to climate shocks to increase their resilience against extreme weather and to allow them to develop adequate adaptation strategies. However, the budgets foreseen are too limited to tackle the outstanding climate challenges and there is no concrete commitment on the side of the developing nations to ensure how they will follow through on the finance the promised ($ 100 billion per year by 2020).


The recognition of the fact that developing countries should receive compensation after they have suffered from climate-related “loss and damage” is a step in the right direction. However, there is merely agreement on the concept and no details have been worked out up to now.


Importantly, the potential of agriculture in combating climate change was not considered by the negotiators. Sustainable agriculture has the capacity to tackle both food insecurity and climate change, by increasing the income and food intake of family farmers and by implementing agro-ecological methods. Advances in this respect are also dependent on progress in the World Trade Organization’s negotiations on agriculture.


In conclusion, the Doha climate negotiations have not addressed with the needed sense of urgency the needs of the most vulnerable to climate change, which are the people in developing nations who absorb many climate shocks and who historically have contributed the least to it.


The consequences for the African countries are multiple. Firstly, no further commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will affect developing countries and Africa in particular, because they will have to continue to deal with extreme weather events (droughts, floods). Such events severely harm the food security of Africans, who have a lower resilience towards these climate shocks. In order to increase their resilience funding is needed so that adequate adaptation strategies can be developed, for example better infrastructure, water harvesting (in case of droughts; severe water shortages also pose serious health risks) creating stocks (in case harvest is lost due to weather shocks), contributing to smallholder productivity though agro-ecological methods, this would both improve food security and resilience to climate shocks.


Moreover, the EU and its member states have been promoting biofuels as “green solutions” in order to reduce GHG emissions. However, this policy has motivated EU-companies to grab land in Africa harming food security (by diverting land and crops away from food production). Next to this increased demand for biofuels has increased demand for food products in general as is seen as a mayor factor contributing to food price volatility. Rising food prices are harming the poorest consumers the most, since they spend the largest part of their income on food products.

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