The 2012 UN Climate Change Conference in Qatar (COP 18)

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View of the Qatar National Convention Centre, venue of the Meeting (photo courtesy of the Qatar National Convention Centre.)

The 2012 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 18) opened today, 26th November 2012 in Doha, Qatar, at the Qatar National Convention Centre, and will continue until the 7th December. Key issues to be dealt with will include the adoption of amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, for the second commitment period. Read on to find out more about the Kyoto Protocol, previous UN climate change conferences and agreements reached.


The Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed during COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan, in
1997, 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 United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC), agreed to reduce their overall emissions of
six greenhouse gases (GHG) 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. The whole Convention, which
entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has 195 parties.

Most countries favour extending the 1997
Kyoto pact, which is important
when considering latest reports that the world was on target for a rise
in temperatures of between 3 and 5 ˚C because of increasing GHG
emissions. The European Union led the group of countries pushing
for an agreement on extending the Kyoto Protocol during last year’s
UNFCCC meeting in Durban, South Africa, and managed to persuade the
42-strong Alliance of Small Island States coalition and the 48 least
developed countries to back the EU. However, Russia, Japan and Canada
have pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol since and whether they will be
persuaded to reinstate their backing during COP18 remains to be seen.

Since its creation in 1992, the UNFCCC, which sets out a framework for
action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of GHG to avoid
dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, has met
several times and these meetings have been much talked about in the
media since COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, which was followed by
COP16 in Cancún, Mexico, in 2010, and COP17 in Durban, South Africa, in
2011. Besides the main conference which happens once a year towards the
end of the year, groups from the convention meet a few times in between
to deal with issues as a result of the main meetings or in preparation
for the main annual meeting.

In Copenhagen, no formal deal was agreed during the formal meetings,
but after 13 hours of debate during informal negotiations between groups
comprising major economies, the “Copenhagen Accord” was drawn and
delegates agreed to “take note” of the accord, which eventually gained
the support of 140 countries during 2010. Probably the best thing to
come out of the accord is that over 80 countries have provided
information on their national mitigation targets or actions to the
UNFCCC as a result of the accord.

The ‘Cancún Agreements' resulted from the Cancún talks, which
recognised GHG emission reduction targets for industrialized and
developing countries and countries 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 to 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. However,
the most significant element of the Cancún Agreement was the pledge of
US$30 billion in fast start finance from industrialised countries to
support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the
intention to raise US$100 billion in long-term funds by 2020 are
included in the decisions.

In Durban, the conference talks over-run by 36 hours, and at the end of
the sometimes heated exchanges between the EU, on one side, and India
and China on the other about the extension period for the Kyoto
Protocol, the Brazilian delegation saved the day by suggesting a
compromise, which resulted in the EU and India agreeing on a 'roadmap',
which commits countries to negotiate either a protocol, another legal
instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force. A deal was finally
agreed in Durban to push for a new climate treaty, but was it a good
deal? In the words of Greenpeace's Chief Policy Advisor Ruth Davis "this
deal is a lot better than no deal."

Will Russia, Japan and
Canada be
persuaded to reinstate their backing of the Kyoto Protocol during COP18? Let's hope so! Let's also hope that the recent signs of the effects of climate change, such as the devastation of hurricane Sandy, the drought in the USA that pushed up food prices, the disruption to the Indian monsoon, the melting of much of the Greenland ice sheet, the shrinking of the Arctic sea ice, and recent floods in Europe will give the COP 18 negotiators a sense of urgency to come up with real measures to reduce GHG emissions.

Link to pertinent websites for following the UNFCCC conference progress are given below. A small selection of articles are also included, selected from a total of 88 articles from the CABI internet resource Environmental Impact, obtained from a search using the terms "climate change" and COP.

UNFCCC website.
Agenda for the meeting.
IISD reporting site.

Further Reading

Williams, I.;  Coello,
J.;  Kemp, S.;  McMurtry, E.; 
Turner, D.;  Wright, L. (2012). The role of business and industry in climate management
after Durban. Future Science Ltd, London, UK,  Carbon Management, 2012, 3, 5, pp 431-433.

DOI/abs/10.4155/cmt.12.51

Schroeder, H.;  Lovell, H. (2012). The role of non-nation-state actors and side events in the
international climate negotiations. Taylor & Francis, Abingdon,
UK,  Climate Policy, 2012, 12, 1, pp
23-37, 41 ref.
DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2011.579328

Huntingford, C.;  Lowe, J. A.; 
Gohar, L. K.;  Bowerman, N. H.
A.;  Allen, M. R.;  Raper, S. C. B.;  Smith, S. M. (2012) The link between a global 2°C warming threshold and
emissions in years 2020, 2050 and beyond. Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol, UK,  Environmental Research Letters, 2012, 7, 1,
pp 014039, 39 ref.
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014039

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