Current global commitments to cut emissions amount for only 60 percent of reductions needed to hit the 2°C target and Doha failed to produce any further commitments to cut emissions from any major emitter. This suggests that the world has given up on attempts to limit average temperature rise to 2°C.1
There will now be a UN review of the long-term temperature goal, intended as a “reality check”. The review is due to complete by 2015, so its findings can feed in to the final decisions on the new global climate change deal agreed at Durban in 2011.
While delegates highlighted their “grave concern” about the ambition gap, concrete action on addressing the issue was left for future conferences. Given Poland’s cautious stance at Doha and within the EU on cutting emissions, developing countries fear progress at next year’s conference in Warsaw will be no more substantive than this year’s.
However, there are reasons to suggest that COP18 in Doha marked a low point in the UN climate change process and that momentum will pick up next year. The latest series of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are set to be released during 2013 and 2014 – and all the indications are that they will make frightening reading and may spur policymakers to take action.
Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, has announced that he will organize high-level talks in 2014, recognizing that the engagement and commitment of world leaders is essential to achieving real progress. And the news that France is already pressing to host the crucial 2015 COP meeting suggests that those talks, intended to produce the new global climate agreement, will have a host committed to driving through a robust deal.
There is still no clarity on what form that deal will take but some progress was at least made in Doha on the timetable to reach it. Talks will start in April 2013.
There have been some smaller-scale agreements that give hope that the ground is being prepared for greater ambition. Ministers from 25 countries in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition agreed to work together to limit emissions of black carbon (or soot), methane and ozone, some of the biggest short-lived sources of global warming but not regulated by the Kyoto Protocol.
If they are successful, they could reduce warming by 0.5°C by 2050, buying some time for more ambitious measures to be put in place as well as cutting deaths from air pollution and improving crop yields. While this is encouraging, it is no replacement for an agreement between all emitters.
1The World Bank (2012). Turn Down the Heat. Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided.
International Energy Agency (2011). World Energy Outlook
United Nations Environment Programme (2010). The Emissions Gap Report