DAMBAR KRISHNA SHRESTHA
The 18th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as COP 18 is underway in Doha. More than 12,000 delegates from 194 countries have gathered here in the over-cooled conference halls.
Even before the conference began there was scepticism among environmentalists and vulnerable nations about its outcome. The fact that the COP is being held in an OPEC country, which is the world's highest per capita carbon emitter has put off many.
Besides, the failure to salvage an international legally binding climate treaty at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 has led to a low level of trust among the countries. Since then, much effort has gone into getting this multilateral process to move ahead.
Last year, at COP 17 held in Durban, rich nations racked by an economic crisis bought time to agree on an internationally binding treaty, postponing any agreement up to 2015, to be implemented by 2020.
These delaying tactics have raised serious concern among the vulnerable countries, particularly the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the low lying island states. Nearly 100 countries whose total emission is less than six per cent of the global greenhouse gas emission have the lowest capability
to combat climate change impacts.
The Doha summit is unlikely to make a major breakthrough, but activists and the vulnerable nations are doing what they can to achieve incremental milestones to reach a deal in 2015. One of the goals is to get the big economies to agree on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Protocol is the only instrument under the UN framework that legally binds the developed countries (also termed as Annex I) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The first commitment period of the protocol ends this year.
The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced in 2007 states that in order to minimise the impact of climate change, global average temperature must not exceed two degrees. For that to happen, the global carbon emission must be reduced by at least 25 to 40 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 based on 1990 level.
However, the current trajectory shows an increase of 3.5 degrees in the same period, which could accelerate melting of the polar ice and snow caps in the Himalaya and climate stress.
The United States, the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, is refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol and setting a bad example. It has prompted countries like Canada, Japan, Russia, and New Zealand to move out of the protocol as well. They have also argued that the emerging economies including China, Brazil, and India should also take legally binding actions.
For developing countries like Nepal, another issue of interest in Doha is the commitment of support by developed countries in tackling climate impacts. During the Copenhagen meeting, developed countries had promised $100 billion per year in financial and technical assistance. In the next seven days, the LCDs will look to get the developed countries to agree on short-term financial pledges scaling up to the original commitment.
Nepal has been part of several rounds of COP negotiations in the past and as chair of the LDC Group for 2013-14, it will have a strategic advantage to forward its demands and be more vocal.
Raju Pandit Chhetri works with Climate Action Network- International, a network of more than 200 civil society organisations across the world working on climate change.
Watch the opening day address
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