The annual conference of the parties (COP) to the United Nations framework convention on climate change took place in Doha, Qatar, from 26 November to 8 December. The United Kingdom was represented by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey), and the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the right hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker).
What we agreed
After the success of last year’s Durban conference in agreeing to negotiate by 2015 a new global legally binding agreement to come into force from 2020, while focusing renewed efforts before 2020 on raising ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this year’s conference needed to make progress on both. It was never going to be a major breakthrough meeting, but I am pleased to say that, following two weeks of intense negotiations, the UK’s objectives this year were largely achieved. We agreed a high-level work plan for negotiating the new agreement by 2015 and for enhancing the political space for and breadth of recognition of efforts to raise ambition. In doing so, it was important to ensure the current regime would not fragment and that the rules and mechanisms within it can be developed further ahead of the new regime from 2020. To this end, we, with our European partners, Australia and some others agreed to bind our existing actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions into international law by entering a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol (KP2). We also secured agreement to further work on developing the rules base around accounting, measurement, reporting and verification of effort by countries not in the KP2, while also streamlining the three negotiating tracks working in parallel at Doha into one negotiation focused on the new agreement and the need to raise ambition. This was a step forward on the way towards getting back on track towards addressing the growing gap between current greenhouse gas emissions and a cost-effective trajectory of reducing such emissions that would be consistent with limiting average global temperature increases to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
The EU is the world’s leading provider of official development assistance and climate finance to developing countries. In Doha the EU demonstrated that it is on track to provide the full €7.2 billion it has pledged in “fast start” finance for the period 2010-12 and assured its developing country partners that climate finance will continue after this year. A package of decisions on finance encourages developed countries to keep climate finance in 2013-15 to at least the average level of their fast start finance. The decisions also extend a work programme on long-term finance for a year, with the aim of helping developed countries identify pathways for scaling up climate finance to $100 billion per year by 2020 from public, private and alternative sources in return for continued meaningful action by developing countries. I used the UK’s commitments on climate finance, agreed and first announced in 2010 as part of the current spending period, to add momentum to the negotiations at a key point during the second week. This helpfully also secured public announcements by many other donors of the climate finance they were also delivering, demonstrating that showing leadership draws others.
Loss and damage associated with climate change
A key concern of many developing countries was the issue of “loss and damage”. By agreeing to establish an institutional process under the regime to address more structurally loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change in particularly vulnerable developing countries we headed off calls for an unbounded process towards compensation. The arrangements will be established at the UN climate conference to be held at the end of next year in Warsaw.
What does the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol mean?
The second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol will start on 1 January 2013. It is a ratifiable amendment to the Kyoto protocol setting out the rules governing the second period. It will run for eight years, thus ensuring no gap occurs between its end and the entry into force of the new global agreement in 2020. The EU will apply the amendment from 1 January 2013 even though formal ratification by the European institutions and member states is likely to take over a year. I shall bring forward the process of ratification to the House in 2013.
For the second period the EU has taken on an emissions reduction commitment in line with its existing target of cutting emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990, but has left the door open to stepping up this reduction to 30% if the conditions are right—an important provision given the coalition Government’s commitment to work towards this step up of climate ambition in the EU. The reduction commitment will be fulfilled jointly by the EU and its member states, Croatia and Iceland. The targets of all countries participating in the second period will be revisited by 2014 with a view to considering raising ambition.
The EU and other countries taking on targets under the second period will have continued access to the Kyoto mechanisms from the start of the period, an important element for businesses and market certainty across Europe. A limit on purchases of surplus emission budgets (“AAUs”) from the first commitment period and rules narrowing the potential for using such AAUs at all in the second commitment period will apply. Moreover, the decision includes political declarations by the EU and its member states and almost every other potential buyer—Australia, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway and Switzerland—stating that they will not purchase AAUs carried over from the first period.
The second period forms part of the transition to the global agreement taking effect in 2020. Including the EU, the countries taking part in the second Kyoto period account only for around 14% of world emissions—by 2020 this could be less than 10% of global emissions. This underscores the need for the future climate regime from 2020 to involve action by all.
Overall, the Doha conference represents a useful step forward. It has reaffirmed the commitment to a 2015 global agreement, given space and a process for focus on raising shorter-term ambition, and preserved the Kyoto protocol and a wider rules-based system that will help form the foundations of the new agreement.
Lastly, I wish to pay tribute to the UK delegation to the talks who worked tirelessly, including several times through the night, professionally and expertly across the range of issues, ensuring the UK played a leading role in delivering the outcome.
We continue to have much to do. Doha has kept the forward momentum that has been a feature of this process since the difficulties at Copenhagen in 2009. But we need to take significant further action globally, and urgently, if we are to stand any chance of limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.