Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eyes on Qatar

The 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference opened yesterday in Doha, with a call for action from the President of the sessions, Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Atttiyah:

“Now more than ever, the issues at the heart of these negotiations are at the forefront of global debate and discourse. All seven billion people living on the planet share a single challenge: climate change,” Mr Al-Attiyah has said. “This is why we gather at the highest official levels in an international framework; this is our mission. If we do not make the changes we need to now, it will soon be too late. We must decide whether we let our lifestyles jeopardise our life.”

This is in response to the dire report from the World Bank regarding the impact of climate change that has already taken place. The US has refrained from being a part of the UNFCCC protocol because of its objection to being designated as Annex II country when India and China are equal carbon emitters and are not held accountable for that because of their earlier "developing country" status.

The US delegate to the conference, Jonathan Pershing offered no new sweeteners to the poor countries at the opening day, only reiterating what the United States has done to tackle global warming: investing heavily in clean energy, doubling fuel efficiency standards and reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pershing also said the United States would not increase its earlier commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It is half way to that target.

"I would suggest those who don't follow what the U.S. is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it's enormous," Pershing said.

Now all eyes are on the US Administration to reaffirm a core commitment made at last year's COP in  Durban for a 2 degree limit on climate change. A statement made by Todd Stern, a State Department envoy, earlier this year, appears to back off from any commitment to this hard goal. However, the EPA is poised to finalize a rule approved in March that would put severe limits on the construction of new power plants in the USA.

How else is the US participating? The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements will be conducting a significant side project at the conference. Which indicates that US leadership could possibly come from a myriad of strategies rather than a single goal commitment.