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Modest Hopes for UN Climate Talks

The United Nations’ climate talks got underway Monday in Doha, Qatar with negotiators and experts expressing modest expectations for the two-week global conference, which will center on laying the groundwork for a new emissions cap-and-trade agreement as the Kyoto Protocol’s expiration looms.

The negotiations leading up to Doha have been progressing well and delegates will manage to close the deal, said Haege Fjellheim, senior analyst at Thomson Reuters Point Carbon.

But the talks, which are taking place under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and includes representatives from nearly 200 countries, have already heated up.

Developing countries urged the EU, a central backer of the Kyoto Protocol, to work towards a second round of pledges, calling it a vital agreement for meeting the UN’s target of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, a goal expected to be missed, AFP reported. The World Bank issued a report last week ahead of the climate talks warning of a temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Securing the second commitment would remove a major hurdle towards a wide, global treaty that would be sealed in 2015 and take effect in 2020, AFP reported.

The EU and others agreed at last year’s talk to extend Kyoto for a new period, but differences remain over the details, with the two camps disagreeing over how long the next commitment period should last and how deep the carbon emissions cuts should be. Developing countries favor a 5-year commitment, while the EU and other developed countries want an eight-year period to avoid a gap before the new global agreement begins and to align the Kyoto framework with existing national legislation, said Point Carbon.

Meanwhile, business groups and NGOs pushed delegates on various issues related to climate change, including melting permafrost and carbon markets.

The UN’s Environment Programme warned in a report released Tuesday that melting permafrost, which covers almost a quarter of the northern hemisphere and contain 1,700 gigatonnes of carbon, could significantly amplify global warming should thawing accelerate as expected.

The International Emissions Trading Association urged delegates to tackle several issues, including widening access to carbon market mechanism to help boost demand. Prices for United Nations greenhouse-gas credits known as Certified Emission Reductions have fallen 85 percent in the past year because the market has an oversupply of credits.

IETA also called for a clear, robust framework for a new market mechanism to enable a successful launch of new carbon markets and to ensure continuity from the present UNFCC structures. The recommendation mirrors a call from more than 100 international corporations, including food and consumer products company Unilever, energy giants Royal Dutch Shell and Statoil, re-insurer Swiss Re and construction company Skanska for a universal, transparent and unambiguous global carbon price to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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