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Climate action: Questions and Answers on the UN climate conference in Doha

European Commission - MEMO/12/888   23/11/2012

Other available languages: none


Brussels, 23 November 2012

Climate action: Questions and Answers on the UN climate conference in Doha

1. Why another climate change conference?

Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)1 and the Kyoto Protocol2 meet once a year at high level to discuss how to advance international action to combat climate change. Qatar is hosting this year's conference from 26 November to 7 December in Doha. It will be the UNFCCC's 18th 'Conference of the Parties' (COP 18) and the Kyoto Protocol's 8th 'Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties' (CMP 8). The high-level (ministerial) segment of the conference will run from 4 to 7 December.

Doha is the first opportunity for high-level discussions under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol since the breakthrough at the Durban conference a year ago when agreement was reached to set up the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action and to extend the Kyoto Protocol into a second commitment period starting on 1 January 2013.

The Durban Platform has a dual mandate: to draw up a new climate agreement applying to all countries, for adoption by 2015 and entry into force in 2020; and to identify ways to achieve further cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions before 2020. This aspect of the mandate reflects recognition that the emission reduction pledges for 2020 put forward so far are not adequate to meet the internationally agreed goal of holding global warming below 2°C compared to the pre-industrial temperature.

2. What does the EU want Doha to achieve?

The Doha conference needs to build on the package of decisions agreed last year in Durban and take international climate action another step forward. This means:

  • laying firm foundations for a new global agreement to be adopted by 2015;

  • identifying measures to narrow the gap between emission pledges for 2020 and what is needed to keep the 2°C warming limit within reach;

  • finalising the rules and adopting the second period of the Kyoto Protocol;

  • taking next steps on climate finance for developing countries; and

  • moving ahead with implementing processes and operationalising institutions which have already been agreed.

Doha must get down to serious discussions on both workstreams of the Durban Platform in order to start making enhanced action a reality. The EU wants to see substantive discussions in informal roundtables, ministerial-level discussions which give guidance and decisions which provide political momentum and plan future work, with a focus on 2013.

On the future global climate regime, the ministerial-level discussions should start to explore themes such as mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology. In particular, discussion is needed on how all parties will contribute to respecting the 2°C warming limit in a way that is fair and reflects their evolving responsibilities and capabilities. The EU is pressing for an agreement that is ambitious and legally binding.

Regarding the second part of the Durban Platform’s mandate, the ministerial discussions need to launch initiatives to raise the ambition of pre-2020 climate action. A Doha decision should give political guidance on pledges for 2020 and recognition and support to the role of international cooperative initiatives (ICIs) that have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Examples of suitable areas for ICIs include the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies; fostering energy efficiency and renewable energy, through such initiatives as the Sustainable Energy for All initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (to which the EU has pledged €400 million for sub-Saharan Africa); tackling deforestation and forest degradation; and reducing short-lived climate pollutants, including fluorinated gases, through such initiatives as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition3. Furthermore, parties which have not yet made emission pledges for 2020 should do so.

Doha should adopt an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol which ensures the continuity of a multilateral rules-based system, including Kyoto's flexible mechanisms, and enables the second commitment period to start on 1 January 2013 with the broadest possible participation (see point 4 below).

In Doha, the EU will seek to reassure developing countries of the EU's continued contribution to climate finance beyond this year and its readiness to explore pathways for scaling up this finance, in coordination with other donors. EU Member States are currently finalising their budgets, including climate finance contributions, for 2013. The EU remains fully committed to the goal of developed countries mobilising US $100 billion per year by 2020 from a range of public, private and innovative sources in the context of meaningful mitigation of emissions and transparency of action by developing countries (see point 3 below).

Under the working group on long-term cooperative action, the EU is looking for further progress on a number of issues before the group is terminated at the end of the Doha conference to allow the Durban Platform to become the only working group for future negotiations. In particular the EU wants the modalities and procedures of the new market-based mechanism that was agreed in Durban to be elaborated and adopted so that it can become operational as soon as possible. Europe will also be continuing to work towards the full operationalisation of the Adaptation Committee.

Among other issues related to implementation of the UNFCCC, the host of the Climate Technology Centre needs to be selected in Doha so that the Technology Mechanism can become fully operational in 2013. The EU also wants to see the conference adopt recommendations on climate change-related loss and damage which provide some strategic direction on how possible interventions could be developed at national, regional and global level and which increase the coherence of efforts as well as the potential for cooperative measures.

3. What financial support is the EU providing to help developing countries combat climate change?

The EU is the largest contributor of climate finance to developing countries and the world's leading provider of official development assistance (ODA), contributing over half of all ODA.

In addition to its traditional development aid, the EU is committed to providing €7.2 billion in 'fast start' funding over the three years 2010 to 2012 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and mitigate their emissions. This commitment represents almost one-third of the total figure of nearly US$ 30 billion in fast start funding pledged by the developed world for 2010-2012 under the Copenhagen Accord.

So far the EU and its Member States have provided fast start finance totalling €7.14 billion, and it is expected that the €7.2 billion pledge will be met when Member State reports are finalised in 2013. This significant achievement in a time of deep financial and economic crisis underlines Europe's commitment to supporting developing countries in their efforts to address climate change. The EU will provide a detailed progress report on its fast start finance in Doha.

As reiterated by the EU's finance ministers on 13 November, the EU will continue to provide climate finance support to developing countries after 2012. In providing finance for adaptation the EU will continue to take into account the needs of the particularly vulnerable developing countries, including the small island developing states, the least developed countries and Africa.

Developed countries have jointly committed to mobilising climate finance from a wide variety of sources totalling US$ 100 billion a year by 2020 in the context of meaningful mitigation action and transparency on implementation by developing countries. The EU remains fully committed to this goal. Part of the US$ 100 billion a year is expected to be channelled through the Green Climate Fund.

The EU considers that both public and private flows are indispensable elements of climate finance. Further efforts must be made to mobilise innovative sources of climate finance and private financial flows. International climate finance should be used as a lever to incentivise climate-resilient and low-carbon investments, complementing domestic resources in developing countries.

4. What needs to be agreed on the Kyoto Protocol in Doha?

As part of the transition to the future global climate agreement covering all countries, the EU has committed to join the second Kyoto period in the context of balanced progress on all elements of the package of decisions agreed in Durban. A number of issues need to be resolved so that a ratifiable amendment on the second commitment period can be adopted in Doha:

Targets: Ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets for Parties participating in the second Kyoto period need to be finalised and adopted, as so-called quantified emissions limitation or reduction objectives (QELROs), in the form of amendments to the Protocol. The EU's QELRO will reflect its unilateral commitment to reduce emissions by 20% of 1990 levels by 2020, as enshrined in its legislation. The EU's offer to scale up its reduction by 2020 to 30% if other major economies commit to undertake their fair share of a global reduction effort remains on the table.

Length of the second period: The EU wants an eight-year duration ending in 2020. This would avoid any gap between the end of the second period and the entry into force of the new global agreement, and would be in line with the timeframe of the EU's current climate and energy targets.

Review of targets and procedure for increasing them: To avoid the risk of locking in a low level of ambition under an 8-year commitment period, the EU proposes that the ambition level of Kyoto parties' targets for the second period should be reviewed in parallel with the 2013-2015 review under the UNFCCC of the adequacy of the goal of holding global warming below 2°C agreed at the Copenhagen and Cancún conferences. The EU has also proposed a simplified procedure for Kyoto parties to strengthen their emission targets in the light of the review.

Assigned Amount Units (AAUs): The Protocol allows any surplus emission budgets (known as AAUs) from the first period to be carried over for use in subsequent commitment periods. However, the carry-over and use of the large surplus that has built up in the first period could affect the environmental integrity of the Protocol if it is not addressed appropriately. The EU wants a solution that maintains an ambitious level of environmental integrity, encourages the setting of ambitious emission targets and preserves incentives for their over-achievement. Carry-over and use in the second period can apply only to parties which take on a QELRO for the second period. Any decision must treat EU and non-EU countries equally and without discrimination. While the EU wants a solution, any carry-over of AAUs will not affect the ambition level of the EU's climate and energy legislation for 2020 since this does not allow for the use of surplus AAUs for compliance purposes.

Access to Kyoto mechanisms: The EU's priority is to ensure that developed country Kyoto parties which commit to a second period emissions target have continued access to the Kyoto mechanisms (including the Clean Development Mechanism) during the period before the amendment to the Protocol enters into force. For developed country Kyoto parties which do not take on a target, the EU could support continued access to the mechanisms if they agree to continue using the Protocol's accounting framework and avoid double counting the same units both within and outside the Kyoto framework.

Securing continuity: Since it will take time for the amendment on the second commitment period to be ratified by parties and enter into force, the EU wants the second period to be implemented with immediate effect through pragmatic solutions. The EU considers that the best way to do this is for CMP 8 to adopt a set of decisions which ensures a smooth transition and full implementation of the relevant second period provisions from 1 January 2013, pending full entry into force.

5. Why will the EU not be able to ratify the second commitment period on the spot in Doha?

The EU wants a ratifiable amendment to the Kyoto Protocol adopted by CMP 8 in Doha, but ratification itself will be the next step in the process and will take time as the amendment will need to go through the relevant scrutiny and approval processes by parliaments or other bodies in each country. Only when the amendment has been ratified by the requisite number of parties will it be able to enter into force formally. This process is the same as that undergone by the UNFCCC itself, which was agreed and signed in 1992 but only entered into force in 1994 once it had received the required number of ratifications. As stated in point 4 above, the EU wants pragmatic solutions found in Doha which allow the second commitment period to be implemented with immediate effect in order to avoid any gap in practice between the first and second Kyoto periods.

6. What is the EU doing to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions?

The EU recognises that developed countries have a responsibility to take the lead in combating climate change. Europe is committed to becoming a highly energy-efficient, low greenhouse gas-emitting economy. It is working successfully to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, which account for around 11% of global emissions (including emissions from deforestation), and decouple them from economic growth.

With the help of policies and measures implemented at EU and national level over the past decade, the EU and its 27 Member States are on track to comply with, or even over-achieve, their emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

The 15 EU countries which were Member States at the time the Kyoto Protocol was agreed have committed to reduce their collective emissions during the 2008-2012 period to 8% below the level in a chosen base year (1990 in most cases). In 2011 emissions from these 15 Member States were provisionally 14% lower than base year levels while GDP was 43% higher. Ten of the 12 countries which have become EU Member States since 2004 have individual Kyoto Protocol reduction targets of 6 or 8%. Most of these Member States are also on track to overachieve these commitments. Under the second Kyoto commitment period, Cyprus and Malta will for the first time take on an international emissions target as part of the EU.

For 2020 the EU has made a unilateral commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels and has also set itself the target of obtaining 20% of its energy from renewable sources. The EU has also made a conditional offer to scale up its 2020 emissions reduction target to 30% below 1990 levels if other major economies commit to doing their fair share as part of a global and comprehensive post-2012 climate agreement. In 2011, emissions from the 27 EU Member States were provisionally 17.5% below 1990 levels while GDP grew 48% over the period.

Scientific evidence shows that to prevent global warming of more than 2°C, global emissions will need to be cut by at least half of their 1990 levels by 2050 and to continue being reduced thereafter. In line with this and in the context of the developed world's responsibility to lead, the EU has set itself the objective of reducing its emissions by 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050. The European Commission has put forward a roadmap which charts a cost-effective pathway for making the transition to a competitive, low carbon European economy that this reduction will require.

7. Who will negotiate for the European Union in Doha?

As a regional economic integration organisation, the European Union is a Party to both the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. The 27 EU Member States are also Parties in their own right.

Cyprus, as current President of the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission share responsibility for leading negotiations on behalf of the EU in Doha. However, representatives from several Member States are designated as lead negotiators for the EU on specific issues and therefore also speak on the EU's behalf in the negotiations on these issues.

The Cyprus Presidency will ensure that the EU position is coordinated so that the EU speaks with 'one voice', even if the message is delivered by different people.

1 :

The UNFCCC currently has 195 Parties, including the EU and all EU Member States

2 :

The Kyoto Protocol currently has 192 Parties, including the EU and all EU Member States. The main difference from the UNFCCC is that the United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

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