Lack of concern

The just concluded UN conference on climate change in Doha has not produced any substantial results, just as its predecessors in Copenhagen, Bali and Durban. The 18-day negotiations, as usual in a day and night session at the end, decided to continue the talks.  One outcome, for the record, was the agreement to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only existing global agreement on carbon gas emissions.

It is set to expire by the end of this year. But what will remain beyond December 31 is a crippled Kyoto treaty. The US, which is the biggest emitter of carbon gases, is out of the Kyoto framework as it has refused to ratify it. Russia, Canada and Japan, which are also major polluters, have opted out of the treaty. The treaty will now cover only 15 per cent of global emissions.

There was a verbal concession made by the developed countries to the developing world, which will suffer most because of global climate change. This was an assurance that ‘loss and damage from climate change’ will be considered while framing adaptation policies. This is the first time the word ‘damage’ is used in the context but the rich countries have stoutly refused to accept the idea of  ‘compensation.’

This means the industrialised countries are not ready to accept their historical responsibility for polluting the world and supporting the poorer ones in mitigating the damage. A corpus of $ 100 billion may be disbursed among the developing countries in instalments by 2020. But there is no clarity about where this fund will come from. It is likely that this will be part of the regular development aid to poor countries. The demand that the fund should be operated by a new agency, and not be the financial institutions which are controlled by the rich countries, has also not been accepted.

Therefore in effect no real progress was achieved in Doha. The next conference will be held within an year in Warsaw, where the modalities of transfer of funds will be decided.  But the bigger issues of supporting the poor countries in their adaptation and mitigation efforts, through adequate financial and technological means, and framing a greenhouse  gas emission reduction plan according to an agreed schedule will evade agreement, in spite of dire warnings about the impact of climate change in the coming decades.

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