A deal, but a weak one: that's the result of the UN Climate Conference in Doha. Going into overtime, participants reached few agreements that will significantly curtail emissions. But some see glimmers of hope.
Once the end of negotiations approached, the mood was celebratory in the plenary hall of the Doha conference center. That was until Russia's chief negotiator Oleg Shamanov denounced the pace of the decision-making process as unsuited to the gravity of the issues at hand - and possibly in violation of procedure.
But conference president Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, who has been criticized often for weak leadership at the event, merely noted Shamanov's comment and plunged forward. Attiyah insisted the resulting Doha deal, known as the Doha Climate Gateway, reflected the will of the participants.
The climate conference in Doha came to a close just after 6:20 p.m. local time on Saturday (8.12.2012), about 24 hours after the scheduled close.
The new climate deal is not groundbreaking. "It's less progress than one might have hoped," said German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier.
The resulting agreement extends the Kyoto Protocol, which would have expired just after the end of the year. The extension period is to start on January 1 and will continue until the end of 2020.
Brazil's chief negotiator Andre Correa do Lago was content with the policy's extension, saying it represents the only legally binding contract capable of reducing emissions and offering a blueprint for the new climate agreement.
That new agreement is to be finalized by 2015 and will call on not only industrialized nations but also developing countries to commit themselves to reducing their emissions. The agreement is to come into force by 2020 - after the end of the current extension of the Kyoto protocol.
Climate activists are not very impressed with the Doha results, though.
"We have put far too few emission reduction targets in this Kyoto protocol," said Ann-Kathrin Schneider of BUND, an environment NGO in Germany. She also pointed out that only a few countries are actually included in the second extension period.
Critics are especially displeased about a deal to let countries roll over parts of their unused emissions quotas from the first Kyoto period. This is of particular interest to countries whose economies suffered a collapse after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Many central and eastern European countries have not used up all their emission rights and fought in Doha for having those emissions taken over to the new Kyoto period.
In the end, the Doha deal is a compromise. "A small portion of the unused rights can be used until 2020," explained Martin Kaiser, responsible for international climate politics at Greenpeace. What worries him and his colleagues more, however, is that Russia and the other countries will bring those rights into the negotiations over the climate deal proper.
No clear commitments
Critics also were disappointed with what they call a lack of results on financing concerns. Developing nations and emerging economies had called for concrete commitments as to what they could expect from their wealthy counterparts, starting in 2013.
The developing world also urged industrialized countries to declare when and how much they would contribute to help developing nations reduce emissions and cope with the consequences of climate change. The plan is that by 2020 some $100 billion (77.3 billion euros) will be available to those ends.
But the developing nations will leave Doha without clarity on key details.
"The deal does not have any concrete information with regard to financing," the alliance of small island states AOSIS criticized. "It represents just promises that might be kept in the future."
The United States in particular has refused to come out with any definite commitments. In light of Barack Obama's second term and the difficult domestic budget situation, the US was seen by many at the conference as having its hands tied.
But Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists from the US said his country still could have been more forthcoming at the conference. He said he had hoped that together with civil society groups, US contributions could have been increased to eventually reach the level initially promised.
Compensation for damages
However, observers have welcomed Doha's treatment of the issue of compensation for serious climate damages, citing this as one major step forward at the talks.
"The issue of compensating for people who lose their homes at least came somewhat into focus," said Greenpeace's Martin Kaiser.
He pointed out that this issue would become increasingly important as the number of climate-related catastrophies grows. Ann-Kathrin Scheider of BUND agrees that some progress had been made on the issue, saying, "That's the best part of what has been reached here at Doha."
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