Doha notes: Random thoughts from the Middle East


Shelob/Maman lurks over Doha delegates.

Every time I walk into a press conference it seems there’s more ‘cheery’ news. Yesterday it was UNEP releasing a science report on melting permafrost. Scary stuff. So scary that The Age in Melbourne gave it most of the front page and even some on the back page. (Meanwhile the NZ media was all about Hobbits).

According to the report, if the permafrost keeps melting like it has been, the gases it releases will make up 39% of emissions in 2100 (a combination of release of trapped methane and C02 from decomposing matter).

Then today it was the World Meteorological Organisation’s State of the Climate provisional report. 2012 was no exception to the trend of rising temperatures. “Global warming isn’t a future threat: it’s happening now,” intoned the official, pointing to this year’s Arctic melt as evidence.

These organisations save this stuff up for the climate talks, but sometimes one has to wonder why. I heard a UN official telling a newbie to the process that none of this would have any effect on the delegates at the talks. “They’re in a bubble – they’re totally immune to this stuff,” he said. And he’s right.

Some of these officials have been coming to the climate talks for more than 20 years and they don’t see anything beyond their negotiating tables. What might have an impact would be if they get home and their kids, having seen the permafrost or WMO stories, start giving them hell about it. I hope they do.

Back to the US of A

An alternative reality was being presented by the US. On Monday I sat through head of the US delegation, Jonathan Pershing’s first press briefing, where he tried to persuade the attendant media that the US had been making “enormous” efforts to tackle climate change. A lot of people here were hoping to see some sort of announcement or some indication that the Obama administration was changing, but Pershing gave us no such thing.

Instead, we were subjected to a list of actions the US was taking, breathlessly described by Pershing as if they were some kind of unprecedented, heroic act. “We’ve acted with enormous urgency and singular purpose,” he told us. Then he went on to list the impacts of climate change that the US had suffered in the last year: the droughts, Hurricane Sandy, etc. And he told us that the US was on its way to meeting its Copenhagen pledge and that it was down to everybody else to step up. The US’s Copenhagen pathetic pledge is 4% cuts by 2020 on 1990 levels.

And the fossils

Meanwhile, our beloved country has been receiving award after award. But not any old award, it’s the “fossil of the day”, awarded by the Climate Action Network, to governments who say or do the most outrageous and anti-climate things at the talks. We seem to be racking ‘em up as our delegates continue to make ridiculous statements in the meetings. On Monday we got two – quite a feat. The first (equal with the US, Russia, Japan and Canada) for “running away from a legally binding, multilateral rules based regime.”

We also gained a second place:

“Unlike its neighbour to the west, New Zealand decided not to put its target into the second commitment period, citing spurious grounds when the reality is that it is just a massive display of irresponsibility.  Its island partners in the Pacific should think again before ever trusting NZ again.”

There was no third place.

And after a brief respite, we got another one today.

“…again, because not only did Wellington deliberately decide not to put its target into the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, but today proposed that access to the CDM should be open to all and should not depend on whether a country is signing up to a second commitment period. To make it clear, New Zealand pointed out that otherwise the Adaptation Fund will not have enough money to keep functioning. Come on Kiwis, forget about the hobbits and think about your neighbors! You have to be serious… if you want to feast on carbon markets you have to work up your targets first!”

Even the European Commission wasn’t amused with us. At the EU press conference today, when asked whether he agreed with the developing country view that those who don’t sign up to Kyoto’s second commitment period should be denied access to the CDM and its “flexible mechanisms” spokesperson Artur Runge-Metger answered:

“What we are asking ourselves is: if you don’t want a budget or a target why the heck should you have credits from somewhere else and how would you account for them?”

Couldn’t agree more.

Tomorrow: we hear what the NZ youth delegation here have been doing.

13 thoughts on “Doha notes: Random thoughts from the Middle East”

          1. In all seriousness, I do wonder if Howard has been something of an inspiration: I know he was for Canada’s Harper.

            Howard undertook a policy of refusing to sign Kyoto, while simultaneously insisting that Australia should have a right to participate in all negotiations, if one understands ‘participate’ to mean ‘constantly put our oar in on behalf of our mates in the coal industry’.

            Howard, in short, was a climate criminal of the first water.

            We had to wait ’til Rudd in ’07 to sign on, and we’ve limped along since then, but at least we now have a CT/ETS, and, contrary to the strident alarmism of Howard’s genuinely demented successor, not only has the world failed to fall apart, we have even managed a modest drop in emissions…

            Howard’s successor was once aptly described by former PM Keating as ‘Canberra’s resident nutter’, and, should he get in next year, will become this country’s first genuine idiot head of state. He has vowed, in all seriousness, a ‘blood oath’ to repeal the ‘great big new tax’ – it’s lack of disastrous impact notwithstanding – and given the Redneck populism extolled by the recently elected state Liberal (*cough*) governments – trashing wild-rivers legislation, re-opening National Parks to graziers and shooting, that sort of thing – his God only knows (Tony’s a devoted Jesuit) what he might do if elected.

            It’s safe to predict it will be an environmental disaster at both the national and global level, as he will most-likely not only reverse the modest steps forward we have made, he’ll then go further. Back. Waaaaaay back…

            1. Too true. One shudders to think what environmental disasters await should he win the treasury benches. I’ve watched from afar, and up close having had a few months in your country this past year. It’s scary stuff. I’m amazed at the tenacity of Gillard, who has introduced the CT despite the slenderest of majorities. Our own attempt failed, and now our timidity – must keep the farmers happy – is our undoing as the weak ETS that was finally legislated is now so full of holes it is little more than a vehicle for subsidizing polluters.
              Meanwhile our negotiators haggle over the “nuances” little realising that the economic “theory” upon which they base their “calculations” is little more than gobbledegook.

  1. “They’re in a bubble – they’re totally immune to this stuff,”
    By definition, everyone at the Qatar meetings doesn’t “get it”! Air travel is one of our worst offenders, a single trip to Europe blows away approx 75% of your annual carbon ‘allocation’. Qatar should be a poster-child of video conferencing, but alas, is another dreary round of futility.
    I sometimes wonder if the only thing politicians respond to is being burnt in effigy, or better still, being burnt in the town square.

  2. New Zealand’s delegates want to still buy $3 international units but not have another binding Kyoto commitment.
    I know that all the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol mish-mash of three letter acronyms is enough to glaze over the eyes of most of the NZ population, but really there is no excuse for having either policy makers or official delegates who are so ignorant of what the international negotiations are about that they think New Zealand will still be able to import and buy $3 international certified emission reduction units for use in the NZETS while not being a party to the second period of the Kyoto Protocol.
    Either our policy makers/Doha delegates are complete idiots or they are cunning malevolent b*st*rds who intend to disestablish the NZETS by 2015. I am not sure what makes me cringe more.
    Ok I am off to shake uncontrollably and gibber to myself under a table.

    1. Mr F I think it’s a combination of both.

      They really, honestly, think that they can keep participating in the rules and are seriously pushing for it. They said yesterday they want a “robust outcome in Doha” on the CDM and that access to the CDM should be open to all and not depend on whether a country is signing up to a second commitment period.

      You can’t make this stuff up. New Zealand is being so obvious about its strategy it’s cringe-making. And central to that strategy is the goal of doing as little as absolutely possible to cut emissions (while calling for everyone else to act fast to save us all).

      Oh, sorry, did I mention Business New Zealand is on the delegation?

    2. Mr Feb: You’re very offensive In calling the NZ delegation those names. I suggest you provide another link fest blog entry on the definition of “negotiation”.
      Interesting to note that if CERs are surrendered in the NZETS after 2012 to the govt, those units would have no value to taxpayers because of the lack of a Kyoto commitment. It would minimise the cost of the ETS though, and arguable have no environmental difference – an emission avoided is the same no matter where in the world it occurs. But project finance would continue to go to developing countries. Perhaps post2012 CERs could be reused as backing for NZU allocations but that would surely violate double dipping principles.

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