Climate Talks, COP18 - Doha

What we take from Doha

This article is written by Vivian Depoues.

Last month, just a few days after the end of COP 18, many NGOs organized a debriefing of the negotiations. CliMates did one, as well as 4D, a French NGO committed to advancing sustainable development. What is really interesting in such moments is the diversity of feelings from people coming back from the summits. I had the same impression after Rio+20. It’s almost possible to draw a gallery of the typical reactions, but that’s what I’ll try to do with the example of the four speakers of this 4D conference.

One of the speakers of this conference was Patrice Burger, Director of CARI (CARI is a NGO which is helping African populations in arid areas, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the North Africa). He was very disappointed by the process he discovered in Qatar, and even more by the outcome of the COP. Mr Burger didn’t agree on the way the discussions were structured, nor on the country which had been chosen to organize the conference. He also found civil society mobilization not strong enough. At the end of his speech he tried to draw some positive remarks, based on his personal experience or some side events. This reaction is a classical reaction of someone coming back from his first international summit. These people are usually very passionate and expect a lot, but then discover the heaviness and the difficulties of the UN process.

The second profile in this gallery is that of the specialist like Ludovic Larbodiere from the French Ministry of Agriculture. He went to Doha to listen and take part to the discussion on the very specific point of agriculture. His analysis is more positive, because he does not try to have a holistic approach but focuses instead on technical progresses. According to him, the question of agriculture is just getting into the climate change debate. He explained that this topic was very specific compared to the others especially because of its sectorial approach of the problem. Through this particular theme, he could give us a particular reading of the whole process and the way positions were crystallized.

The third category is that of country-centred people, like Joaquim Diniz from Brazil. This researcher went to Doha to present the experience of his country with agro-ecology. He only spoke about the solution Brazil found and the way his country can take part to a more global answer to climate change. On a related noted, we could also present the point of view of lobbyists who see the outcomes only in relation to the individual interest they defend. The feeling of an national delegate can complete this gallery as well. As we were able to notice at the CliMates debriefing conference, an experienced negotiator has a slightly different view on what happened. Thus, Paul Watkinson, the head negotiator for France, was not as negative as NGOs because he could really focus on the progresses and realize all the energy that was needed to reach them.

The last profile I want to highlight is the NGOs expert. Pierre Radanne for instance, is a French civil society leader; he has been engaged in environmental issues for decades. At the 4D conference he could draw a much more precise and balanced picture of what happened in Qatar. His analysis started with a brief historical overview : he underlined how the negotiations progressively became broader by taking into account always more topics. He then went on to describe what was the situation just before Doha – according to him, the state of the negotiations did not really allow to expect a lot from this COP. The Kyoto objectives were not reached, financing climate mitigation became harder because of the crisis and the recent evaluation of the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) was quite negative. Within this worrying context, Pierre Radanne listed four objectives for Doha: finalizing the discussions on a 2nd Kyoto engagement period, finding a solution to catch up a better emission patch, making the green fund working and precising the content of the Durban platform. We could easily understand that there were not just objectives but challenges. Finally the Doha agreement ended the discussion on the 2013-2020 period, which was not done until the very end of the negotiations. Every country took the minimal commitments but for Pierre Radanne, “the job was done”. Nothing was done concerning the finance question and almost not progresses can be recorded related to the post 2020 period. 2015 became the new horizon for the discussions on many topics like the Durban platform.

2015, this is probably the main point to keep in mind after Doha. Renewed energy and commitment are probably the best way to define individuals who never drop out. Apparently when you start understanding the UN process, you don’t want to forget it but you cannot totally trust it either. Experienced activists and organizations try to find innovative ways to prepare the next stage of the process and to keep going. At the end of his intervention, Pierre Radanne exposed his project to launch an international experts discussion to define a fair repartition of CO2 emissions reductions. Experienced people do not want to fight again nor act outside the official process, they want to support it and provide elements of solutions to help it. They were probably the most interesting people of this gallery!

“Doha did not go really well, and that’s for the best. The worst would have happened if there had not been any tensions at all” – P. Radanne

Author: Vivian Depoues is a Master student in Environmental Sciences and Policies at the Paris School of International Affaires (PSIA) and the University Pierre and Marie Curie. He is really passionate by the interface between sciences and politics and by the topics of interdisciplinary work. He is engaged in different projects aiming to facilitate the interactions between specialists and promote innovation. He is also the former Network Director of CliMates.

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