Rifts remain at Doha climate talks

Doha, Qatar - The rift between the rich and poor countries remained wide as climate change negotiations in the oil- and gas-rich country Qatar enters its final leg, with doubts mounting over whether a meaningful agreement on new emissions cuts and financing can be reached.

Government ministers at the second week of the annual United  Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are under pressure to make the summit a success.

With hardly any progress made during the first week of the negotiations, governments will now decide on pushing for a new ambitious climate deal that will commit all nations to cutting carbon emissions and to address issues on climate finance. The Kyoto Protocol - the only international treaty with binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions - is due to expire in a few weeks.

“Doha is a crucial turning point to address the planetary emergency of climate change,” said Meena Raman, a negotiaton expert from the Malaysia-based non-government organization Third World Network. “With the current lack of specific targets, adequate finance or real commitment, we are condemning ourselves to a terrifying six-degrees future,” she said, referring to a six-degree rise in global temperature that climate scientists have warned of.

The climate talks attended by delegates from more than 190 nations also need to reach an agreement on how to mobilize long-term finance to support action to poorer countries, which must reach a level of US$100 billion a year by 2020 under the Green Climate Fund.

This is on top of the US$30 billion “fast start finance” pledged by rich countries for the period 2010 to 2012.

“What is frustrating is the fact that we are very far behind what science tells us we should be doing. But what gives me hope is the fact that we have seen certainly for the past two to three years, this process have had more progress than it did in the last 10 years,” said UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres at a press conference on Monday.

Rich and emerging countries such as Canada, Russia, Japan and New Zealand and the United States, refused to make any commitment for the next period of the Kyoto. They said fast-growing economies like China and India have to do far more binding targets in order for the new pact to be a “fair deal”.

“The EU stands by our commitments to participate in the next phase of the Kyoto and to continue provide major financial support to help developing countries tackle climate change,” EU commissioner for climate change Connie Hedegaard said at a press conference.

Observers said that if the climate talks in Doha is to progress, it is vital for rich nations to deliver on financial promises they have made in the past negotiations.

“Currently, the Green Climate Fund stands empty with developed countries threatening to starve the fund unless the private sector can have unfettered access,” said Janet Redman, a senior policy analyst at the US-based think tank Institute for Policy Studies. “ The fund, arguably is the most significant concrete outcome from last year’s climate talks. Developed countries must fulfill their promises to fill the fund.”

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