It’s the Final Day of the Doha Climate Talks, And, Uh, Did Anything Actually Happen?

Reports from Doha don’t provide much hope that any progress has been made on the increasingly urgent issue of global climate change

Climate justice protestors in Doha.
Climate justice protestors in Doha. World Resources

None of the terms commonly used to described the climate negotiations in Doha, which finish today—including “stalled,” “inching forward,” “sluggish,” “delayed,” “a frustratingly slow process” and “tough going”—provide much promise that any progress has been made on the increasingly urgent issue of global climate change.

Today, countries struggled to agree on the wording of draft texts of an agreement that, in theory, would be the outcome of the entire conference, The Guardian reports. Despite recent warnings that we could soon face the end of winter and bid farewell to places like the New Orleans (it’ll be underwater) and the entire Mediterranean (too scorching to handle), there was little sense of urgency in the room throughout the talks. Bloomberg Businessweek says of the mood:

“There is a very poor level of ambition and a general pushing off of concrete outcomes for another year,” said Kieren Keke, the foreign minister of Nauru, who leads the Aosis bloc of 43 island nations. “The current package is largely about continuing to talk and very little about current action.”

Some delegates blamed the Qatari presidency, which, they say, didn’t bother to seize the reigns and get everyone in line, for the lackluster outcome. At the same time, the Saudi Arabian chair has reportedly been acting up and not cooperating with the negotiators, while Chinese representatives shrugged and said they’re willing to be flexible on compromising on carbon cuts, so long as the other two lead polluters—the U.S. and India—follow suit. Meanwhile, the other delegates have resigned themselves to talks that will likely continue late into the night and Saturday morning, despite the schedule originally listing Doha’s conclusion at 6 p.m. this evening.

Bloomberg Businessweek quotes Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“It’s a procedural train wreck that could happen if they don’t pull it together. They’re making progress on the individual bits. But what needs to happen is for them to show how those bits fit into a political package.”

Thankfully, there is still hope for reform. The Guardian points out:

To observers, the talks may seem difficult to follow. The problem is that the really tough negotiations are not happening at these talks – they will not start until next year. Those talks will be on drafting a global agreement, binding developed and developing countries to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, by 2015. If successful, it would be the first such global treaty.

However, if the Doha conference fails to produce a few resolutions on a small set of issues tabled for discussion, these “housekeeping” problems could drag into next year and eat into precious time allocated to negotiating the big questions. The Guardian concludes on a dire note: If the worst happens, and Doha ends in failure, it would cast doubt on the whole UN process of climate negotiations.

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