12 december 2012

Earth Negotiations Bulletin, A Reporting Service for Environment and Development Negotiations, Vol. 12 No. 567 Published by The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD ) Tuesday, 11 December 2012

[4C note: The following is excerpted from pp..26-29 of the above document. It is preceded by detailed reports on the particular meetings at the Doha conference.]


“…If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?
Naderev Saño – Lead Negotiator, the Philippines.

Beamed across global mainstream and social media networks, one of the defining moments of the Doha Climate Change Conference was the impassioned plea from the Philippines’ Naderev Saño in the wake of typhoon Bopha. Calling for action, he stated: “even as we vacillate and procrastinate here the death toll is rising.” This appeal resonated in many quarters: climate change manifestations are increasingly typified by devastation, havoc and human tragedy wrought by hurricanes typhoons and other “natural” disasters. Unfortunately, international climate change negotiating sessions have not always responded with a concomitant sense of urgency.

The “transitional” Doha Climate Change Conference was a case in point. Doha was about moving forward on a trajectory towards adopting a universal climate agreement by 2015—rather than immediately raising ambition as demanded by many youth and NGOs. Delegates also arrived in Doha with the objective of adopting a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and finally closing the door on the two Ad hoc Working Groups: the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA. Doha was also very much about the cost of addressing climate change and, in particular, making progress on long-term funding to support action in developing countries, which is supposed to reach a level of US$100 billion a year by 2020, as agreed in Copenhagen in 2009.

With this in mind, this brief analysis looks back on the contribution of the two AWGs to the climate change process over the years and examines the outcome of the meeting, known as the “Doha Climate Gateway,” and its implications for the future.


When parties established the AWG-KP at CMP 1 in Montreal in 2005 to address industrialized countries’ commitments for the post-2012 period under the Kyoto Protocol, they requested the Working Group to present its results “as early as possible” to ensure there would not be a gap between the first and second commitment periods. At that time, negotiators probably could not imagine that this task would require seven long years of negotiations—the same amount of time it took for the Protocol to enter into force. If anything, these marathon negotiations point to the increasingly complex dynamics that now typify UN climate change negotiations.

It has been clear for some time that ensuring a “seamless transition from the first to the second commitment period” would not be enough to guarantee ambitious emission reductions. The first commitment period included binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the EU to achieve average emission reductions of 5% below 1990 levels in 2008-2012, a figure that was far from ambitious when it was adopted in 1997. By 2005, when the AWG-KP was established, many already accepted the fact that the US would never ratify the Protocol. However, they probably did not expect that some of the key Kyoto Protocol parties would jump ship, as Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the Russian Federation did, by refusing to take on commitments in the second commitment period. This, coupled with the fact that under the Kyoto Protocol major developing countries, such as China—currently the world’s highest emitter—do not have commitments, means that in 2012, the Kyoto Protocol only covers about 15% of global GHG emissions.

In the end, Doha was able to deliver on the AWG-KP mandate, with parties agreeing that the second commitment period “can” be provisionally applied from 1 January 2013. However, it is well-known that the average 18% emission reduction by Annex I parties from 1990 levels in 2013-2020 is not nearly enough to put the world on track to avoid the 2ºC temperature increase limit. The AOSIS campaign for a five-year commitment period to avoid locking-in a low level of mitigation ambition bore no fruit. Annex I parties, such as the European countries, preferred a longer commitment period due to their internal legislation already in force and due to a desire to avoid a gap between the second commitment period and the new regime expected to enter into force in 2020. As a compromise, parties agreed to establish a voluntary mechanism to review Annex I parties’ QELRCs and thus hope for a rise in mitigation ambition under the Kyoto Protocol in the near future.

With the adoption of a second commitment period, the fears of many that institutions, common accounting rules and flexibility mechanisms developed under the Kyoto Protocol would collapse can be assuaged. However, some Annex I parties have been accused of only wanting to “cherry-pick” from elements of the Kyoto Protocol, such as the market mechanisms, which have spawned burgeoning carbon industries back home. Agreeing on the eligibility criteria for participating in the Protocol’s flexibility mechanisms, including the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), occupied a great deal of delegates’ time in Doha.

Parties eventually agreed that only those Annex I parties taking on commitments will be able to trade (“transfer and acquire”) carbon credits generated through the flexibility mechanisms during the second commitment period.

Without doubt, the most drama in Doha unfolded over the use of excess Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), and whether these could be carried over to the second commitment period. Parties that have AAUs to spare because of emission reductions above their Kyoto commitments are permitted to sell the excess units to other countries. However, these surplus AAUs are mostly “hot air” units that do not represent real mitigation efforts but are due to the economic decline experienced during the transition to a market economy by a number of countries, such as the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Poland.

The final “wrangling” took place in the closing plenary on Saturday afternoon between those wanting to limit the use of excess AAUs to ensure the “environmental integrity” of the emission reduction commitments put forward and those arguing that “overachievement” of commitments should not be punished by a limitation in the use of AAUs. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus attempted to block the adoption of the AWG-KP outcome during the CMP closing plenary, but the nimble COP President gaveled its adoption before appearing to notice Russia’s raised flag.

A round of applause welcomed the adoption of the decision, which limits the amount of surplus AAUs that can be used and provides that only parties taking on second commitment period QELRCs can use them. Russia objected to what he said was a breach of procedure by the President, while the COP President responded he would do no more than reflect his view in the final report. This action on the part of the COP President brought back echoes of the events of Cancun when Bolivia’s objections to the adoption of the Cancun Agreement were overruled/ignored in much the same way. It also made many wonder whether this was becoming a trend in the climate negotiations; as many have repeated, consensus does not mean the right of one party to block progress.


On the Convention side, the AWG-LCA came to a rather anti-climactic demise in Doha, devoid of the excitement and resounding applause accompanying its birth five years ago when the Bali Action Plan (BAP) was adopted at COP 13. At that time, weary but good-spirited delegates headed home, heralding COP 13 as a “breakthrough,” stewarding a “new era of multilateralism.” After lengthy and difficult negotiations, delegates had agreed on a two-year process—or Bali Road Map—a set of decisions aimed at finalizing a post 2012-regime by Copenhagen in December 2009. The Bali Road Map was ostensibly about addressing some of the shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol, particularly the US refusal to join a treaty that did not require emission reductions from major developing country emitters. In the meantime, the global economic landscape has been changing beyond recognition and China and India’s rising carbon emissions are increasingly under sustained scrutiny.

At its birth, the BAP was seen as progressive, because for the first time it introduced the notion of “developed” and “developing countries,” under the Convention as opposed to “Annex I” and “non-Annex I parties.” This new categorization opened up the possibility of differentiation according to levels of economic development among developing countries, a nascent concept at that time.

Fast-forward two years, and instead of adopting a new protocol at COP 15 in Copenhagen, the fractious meeting nearly collapsed with parties in the end merely agreeing to “take note” of the Copenhagen Accord. The AWG-LCA’s mandate was extended for another year and subsequently renewed at both COP 16 and COP 17, where parties finally agreed to terminate theAWG-LCA at COP 18.

Leading up to Doha, speculation had been rife that there would be no agreement on closing the AWG-LCA, if its work was not deemed to be satisfactorily completed. Negotiations under the AWG-LCA in Doha at times appeared haphazard— even chaotic—leaving many delegates second guessing AWG- LCA Chair Tayeb’s intentions and modus operandi. Agreement appeared elusive, especially with finance and loss and damage still up in the air and only a weak framework for Annex I countries’ mitigation. Ultimately, after intense consultations and trade-offs, the AWG-LCA completed its work as scheduled.

But what is the AWG-LCA’s legacy? Was it able to deliver on its promises or were delegates naively aspirational in 2007? In Bali, even if anchored in the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, both developing and developed countries ultimately agreed to undertake mitigation efforts. In a historic move, developing countries agreed to “nationally appropriate mitigation actions in the context of sustainable development, supported by technology and enabled by finance and capacity building in a measureable, reportable and verifiable manner.” Developed countries meanwhile agreed to undertake, “measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions, including QELROs, while ensuring the comparability of efforts among them, taking into account differences in their national circumstances.”

Since Copenhagen, over 85 developing and developed countries presented emission reduction pledges under the Convention. However, many of these pledges are unclear, contain targets to be achieved on conditionalities and wide ranges of possible reductions proposed. As one commentator noted, five years down the line, mitigation under the AWG-LCA has increasingly devolved from a “top-down to a race-to-the-bottom approach,” and, he added, “characterized by a pledge and report system, with emphasis on reporting mitigation actions through national communications and inventory reports.” Agreement in Doha under mitigation for developed countries “urges” them to increase the ambition of their quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets to levels recommended by science and establishes a work programme to continue clarifying these pledges. The work programme is aimed at identifying “common elements” for ensuring progress towards emission reduction targets and comparability of efforts.

“The decision does not refer to the establishment of common accounting rules, methodologies and common base years for developed countries,” lamented one developing country delegate. Assessing comparability of mitigation efforts among Annex I parties is key for many reasons, including for maintaining robust international carbon markets. This decision has left many questioning the commitment of developed countries to raising the level of ambition. On the side of developing country mitigation, Doha also establishes a work programme to “further the understanding of the diversity of NAMAs,” which for many, is a long way short of addressing the runaway emissions of several emerging economies.

If anything, the AWG-LCA has fashioned an entirely new institutional landscape under the Convention. Doha endorsed Sondgo, Republic of Korea, as the Green Climate Fund’s (GCF) host. The Standing Committee on Finance is also firmly established. Under technology, a mechanism was created and Doha confirmed a UNEP-led consortium as the host of the Climate Technology Centre (CTC). The Adaptation Committee was established to work on adaptation. When the concept of loss and damage was first proposed by AOSIS during the AWG-LCA negotiations several years ago, it seemed inconceivable then that parties would eventually agree in Doha to develop institutional arrangements to compensate developing countries for loss and damage caused by slow onset events, such as seal level rise.

Finance has always been the linchpin of the negotiations. While the Copenhagen Accord provided for fast-start finance up to 2012 and the mobilization of US$100 billion both for adaptation and mitigation by 2020, the agreement was silent on financing during the period 2012-2020. This mid-term gap has preoccupied the hearts and minds of many during every negotiating session over the last few years. The agreement reached in Doha “encourages” developed countries to increase efforts to provide finance between 2013 and 2015 at the same levels as provided during the fast-start period. For many, this falls considerably short of the MRV of financial support envisaged in the wake of Bali. The agreement also extends the mandate of the work programme on long-term finance by one year, where “efforts to scale up the mobilization of climate finance” will be considered. Although the GCF has been established, without a concrete signal on its replenishment, many see it as just an “empty shell.”

At the end of the day the success of the AWG-LCA’s outcome will be judged by how effectively these new institutions can implement their mandates and enable developing countries to address climate change challenges.


In trying to forge the path towards a more ambitious climate regime, parties in Durban in 2011 decided to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties” with the objective to complete its work as early as possible but no later than 2015, so it can be implemented beginning in 2020. These negotiations have been entrusted to the recently-established Ad hoc Working Group on Enhanced Action under the Durban Platform (ADP).

In Doha, many feared that lack of agreement under the AWGKP and AWG-LCA would have serious repercussions for the work of the ADP, preventing it from delivering a new agreement by 2015. Since agreeing on the ADP’s agenda in June, parties have exchanged views in a roundtable format addressing how to put its mandate into practice. These discussions for some, however, are reminiscent of similar discussions and positions during the early days of the AWG-LCA. Divergent views prevailed in Doha during many of these exchanges, particularly on how the mandate will be “applicable to all,” and whether the Convention principles, including the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, will be at the core of the new regime. For some, the core of the matter lies in how to apply the principles and not whether to apply them. As the decision adopting the ADP does not include explicit references to the Convention’s principles, for the US, it is rather an issue of not “rewriting the ADP’s mandate.”

Under the ADP, developed countries increasingly envisage an evolving and dynamic framework that reflects current socioeconomic realities and definitively dismantles the “firewall” between developed and developing country mitigation. As European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard put it: “We are crossing the bridge from the old climate system to the new system. Now we are on our way to the 2015 global deal.”

The evolving negotiating dynamics perhaps herald a new world order on a different level. Developing countries have started to look at the future with different perspectives. A coalition, which emerged in Bonn, comprising Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala and Panama, formally spoke in Doha as AILAC (Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean states). According to its members, AILAC is “founded on a collective conviction that a strong and robust Convention is the most effective way to achieve the objective of a below-2 degree world.” Meanwhile, another group, dubbed the “like-minded group,” primarily comprised of members of the Arab Group, some Latin American countries, including Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as India and China, appears to be firmly established since June in Bonn. Their goal is to uphold the Convention’s principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and equity, as well as developed countries’ historical responsibility for climate change.

With the baton having now been passed to the ADP, many are asking how to ensure that the ADP delivers on a more effective regime, within such a tight timeframe and many opinions on how just to do it. The success of the ADP may depend, in part, on how negotiators manage to build on the experiences and lessons learned from other processes within and outside the Convention. As delegates left Doha, many appeared satisfied with the agreement on a “firm timetable to adopt a universal climate agreement by 2015” and a path to raise necessary ambition in the context of discussions on raising ambition for the pre-2020 period under the ADP’s workstream 2. Many also welcomed the announcement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of his intention to convene world leaders in 2014 in what many see as “an attempt to keep climate change as the utmost priority on global leaders’ agendas.”

In the words of COP 18 President Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah “Doha has opened up a new gateway to bigger ambition and to greater action—the Doha Climate Gateway.” He added “Now governments must move quickly through the Doha Climate Gateway to push forward with the solutions to climate change.”


Closing the meeting, COP President Al-Attiyah remarked: “I am not saying what is in store is a perfect package. Perfection is just a concept. If great minds like Plato and Socrates were in the COP presidency, I assure that even they would not been able to deliver a perfect COP 18 package…” He acknowledged the sentiments of many that Doha had reached an agreement but at the same time had also fallen short. As a civil society representative pointed out “success should not be measured by saving the process” but by taking real action to combat climate change.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, the expectations of non-Annex I parties in 2005 were far from realized, but as one insider mentioned “Doha will go down as a very modest step forward in safeguarding the only existing legally-binding top- down and rule-based system.”

The world is changing dramatically and it promises to change just as much or more before 2020, especially as some “developing” countries’ economies and even per capita emissions surpass developed countries, and as the impacts of climate change become more common and destructive. All eyes now look ahead to see what a future universal climate change regime can deliver and whether this time around there will be the requisite urgency and political will to ensure that dangerous climate change is avoided. Only history will judge, as a negotiator from the Philippines said “whether we have opened our eyes to the stark realities that we face.”


[Concerning the authors, publisher and donors of The Earth Negotiations Bulletin on Doha, the front cover contains the following information: ]

"This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © is written and edited by Tomilola Akanle Eni-ibukun, Ph.D., Jennifer Allan, Beate Antonich, Asheline Appleton, Elena Kosolapova, Kati Kulovesi, Ph.D., and Eugenia Recio. The Digital Editor is Leila Mead. The Editor is Pamela S. Chasek, Ph.D. . The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI . The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Commission (DG-ENV), the Government of the United States of America (through the Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs), the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and the Government of Australia. General Support for the Bulletin during 2012 is provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Environment of Sweden, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES), the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (through the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute – GISPRI), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Specific funding for coverage of this meeting has been provided by the State of Qatar. Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Belgium Walloon Region, Québec, and the International Organization of the Francophone (OIF and IEPF). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at ,+1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022, USA.

>>> Back to list