Written by Henry Neondo
[DOHA] Determined to prove skeptical civil societies wrong, governments that are party to the UN Climate Change Conference and meeting at the 18th Conference of Parties in Doha, Qatar that is starting today Monday have pledged to stay focussed on essential tasks ahead of them so that the meeting can deliver agreed outcomes and constitute another step forward in the global response to climate change.
The newly elected President of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18/CMP 8), H. E. Mr. Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Chairman of Qatar's Administrative Control and Transparency Authority, urged the conference to stick to agreed timetables and speedily implement already agreed decisions.
"Climate change is a common challenge for humanity. We must work in earnest for a better future for present and for future generations. We have a precious opportunity over the coming days, and we must make full use of it. Many delegates have stressed the importance of finalizing work on time, and that requires that we all show flexibility," he said.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), highlighted an important set of reports published shortly before Doha, which all point to the urgency to act to keep global average temperatures from rising beyond an internationally agreed level of 2 degrees Celsius degrees centigrade, beyond which climate impacts become extremely serious.
Analysis published by the World Bank shows the world remains firmly at risk of seeing temperatures rise towards 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, creating devastating effects, if current levels of ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions are not raised.
The World Meteorological Organization says greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have reached yet another record high at 390.9 parts per million, with no identified change in the upwards trend. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that the gap between what is needed in terms of emission reductions to stay below 2 degrees Celsius and what is so far promised by countries is still widening, not decreasing.
However, all reports underline that the technology, the funding and the policy options to remain below the 2 degrees Celsius goal are already available, provided that governments and societies take the necessary action rapidly enough.
"Expert analysis consistently says that we do have the possibility to keep on track and that to act now is safer and much less costly than to delay. In the last three years, policy and action towards a sustainable, clean energy future has been growing faster than ever. But the door is closing
fast because the pace and scale of action is simply not yet enough. So Doha must deliver its part in the longer-term solution," the UN's top climate change official Christiana Figueres said.
"Governments have said they intend to work hard to advance their decision texts before the high-level segment, so they can hand over a very limited set of options to ministers and close successfully at the end of next week," she said. The UN Climate Change Conference in Doha (26 November to 7 December) is being attended by government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media. More than 100 Ministers are scheduled to attend the high-level segment of the meeting, which begins on 4 December and ends with a decision-making plenary on 7 December.
The opening of the high-level segment will also be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Governments’ key objectives for COP 18 in Doha include assuarance that there shall be a seamless continuation of the Kyoto Protocol as of 1 January 2013.
The Kyoto Protocol is the only existing and binding agreement under which developed countries commit to cutting greenhouse gases. The treaty underwrites international political trust that developed nations remain responsible to lead emission cuts, and it preserves the important accounting and legal systems inside the Protocol as working models which may inform future agreements.
Key issues under the Protocol that need to be decided in Doha include the length of the second commitment period and how to convert targets into so-called "quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives" (QELROs), the unit of binding reduction commitments.
It also includes the legal formulation of the amendment to the Protocol, including how to carry over unused emission credits of economies in transition into the second phase of the Protocol.
With 195 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 193 of the UNFCCC Parties.
Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.
The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.