Outcomes of Doha climate negotiations: one step forward, two steps back?

On Saturday, December 8, the Doha round of climate negotiations finally came to an end. COP18 approved Kyoto-2, but failed to provide any significant emissions cuts. Russia remains with a huge but useless amount of hot air.

On Saturday, December 8, another annual round of climate negotiations under UNFCCC came to an end with a one-day delay. Due to the COP’s President’s authoritarian decision, the final documents were adopted as one package. Despite some sort of diplomacy violation, the decision was cheered by the observers. Russia’s remarks concerning AAUs carry-over were not heard and the Russian delegation strictly objected.

On one hand, Qatar did not become another epic failure. The final document package entitled Doha Climate Gateway includes the long-awaited amendment concerning the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol. On the other, the outcomes were strongly criticized by observer NGO networks. Doha was unable to deliver the necessary increase of ambitions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The issue of financial assistance to the poorest countries in combating negative climate change consequences remains unresolved.


The amendment concerning the 8-year long second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol (CP2) was formally approved. In order to come into force is has to be ratified by ¾ of the parties. But there is a decision that it is possible to conduct various activities, apart from the operations with hot air, even prior to ratification. This way a minimal step forward is made towards a new global agreement. Two working groups under UNFCCC completed their work and were dismissed – AWG KP (on Kyoto protocol) and AWG LCA (on long-term cooperative action). The ADP (The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) defined its main principles and methods of work.

Emissions reduction

The commitments under CP2 only cover EU and Australia and their under 15% of global emissions. The countries taking part in CP2 are called upon to review their commitments in order to ensure a 25-40% emissions reduction by 2014. Russia’s official target is likely to be clarified before the end of 2012. So far the latest announced target presented by Dmitry Medvedev at Rio+20 was negative 25% of the 1990 level. The overall announced ambition is not enough to keep global warming within 2 degrees, experts say. The World Bank has already presented their view of the “40C warmer world”, but according to some other estimations the current emissions growth trends are leading the world to a 60C temperature rise by 2100.

Hot air

CP2 inherited the drawbacks and loopholes of CP1: the carry-over of AAUs is permitted, as well as AAU trading and other use. But there is also a new scheme of limiting the hot air. During the last plenary session a conflict broke out: the Russian delegation insisted on voicing out a remark on how a series of issues included in CP2 decisions contradict the KP itself. The COP’s President did not give Russia such an opportunity. After the presidency was passed to another chair, Oleg Shamanov was given the floor, but the COP decision on AAUs carry-over remained unchanged.

The part concerning the hot air says that every country that takes a commitment under CP2 is only given a maximum of AAUs that is equivalent to the average of its emissions during the first 3 years of CP1 (2008-2010). In other words if a country has a very weak target which is higher than its emissions were on average during those three years it will nevertheless only get that average number (multiplied by 8, which is the length of the commitment period). This paragraph was very controversial because it required that a country that decides to join CP2 has to set an emission reduction target that actually does not create any new hot air and that would actually require them to reduce their emissions.

As for the economies in transition, Ukraine still keeps a reserve of surplus AAUs which it may use to reach its CP2 targets, but the country would still need to take measures to stabilize its emissions in the nearest future. Belarus and Kazakhstan which do not have any surplus AAUs from CP1 may be forced to refuse joining CP2 since it now becomes disadvantageous.

Russia now finds itself in a strange situation having accumulated a vast surplus of hot air. It will not be able to do anything about it in the next 8 years at least, due to not joining CP2 and the failure to announce its QELROs. Nothing clear has been said so far whether AAUs will or not be cancelled by the end of CP2. It is most likely that the issue will be brought up again during further ADP deliberations. As RSEU Climate Secretariat has noted before, taking part in CP2 would not cause Russia any troubles, quite on the contrary. Taking into account current emission trends and the possible chance to use the AAUs surplus from CP1 Russia would easily be able to meet even more ambitious targets while keeping its JI projects.

CP2 countries now only are able to buy the maximum of 2% of their initial assigned amount from CP1. A number of countries (among them EU, Japan, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Monaco) stated that they would not buy any CP1 hot air. Well, they have enough of their own hot air already. Japan went out of CP2 a while ago and thus it is unclear why they had to make such a statement.


The conference provided very weak outcomes as for securing climate finance. The COP decision contains an appeal to governments to provide long-term financing, create public adaptation funds, but fails to provide any relevant numbers. The developed countries are suggested to maintain the financing on the current level based on their economical capabilities. It is very unclear how the previously promised $100 billion per year by 2020 will be supplied.

The decision to make the World Bank the official treasurer/operator of the Green Climate Fund was strongly objected and criticized. This is exactly what many developing countries, indigenous people’s organizations and observers networks spoke out against. The new fund was intended as an alternative to GEF and other World Bank institutions which would enable a more independent financial policy aimed at actual help to vulnerable countries and communities, not profit maximization.

Loss and Damage

During this year’s negotiations an important role was given to the issue of providing compensation for the loss and damage as a result of negative climate change consequences in the poorest countries. Some of them are not only expecting it, but already have to take urgent measures that require a whole deal of external funding. For example, the government of Kiribati, a small island state, is already forced to buy land in Fiji and neighboring islands to move their inhabitants, climate refugees. The mechanism of such compensation was decided to be adopted next year at COP19 in Warsaw, while the development of the action plan has to be addressed immediately. It is a huge breakthrough for developing countries. But it is very likely that this will lead to a fierce fight for finance during the next negotiations round.

To wrap it up, despite a formal success and the adoption of the Doha Climate Gateway, the most urgent and vulnerable issues were not decided upon. Some topics (for instance, boreal forests) were not even addressed at Doha. The countries failed to come to a common understanding of a comparable carbon accounting scheme. The announced ambitions of countries are very low and the adoption of a new global agreement will take, according to some optimistic delegates, another 5 to 6 such conferences. This slow pace does not leave much space for optimism for observers though.