The 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was held in Doha, Qatar, from the 26th November to 7th December 2012, is generally deemed to have been a success in making progress towards and preparing the ground for the 2015 talks. However, as highlighted by the scientific community and the evidence-based literature describing the potential impacts and risks of climate change, the pace of this process is not as rapid as desired.
Ministers from nearly 200 countries hammered out the final deal – a package of documents collectively titled The Doha Climate Gateway. The EU managed to achieve most of its aims:
- For the first time, all countries, developed and developing alike, will make legal commitments under the planned global agreement and negotiate collectively under the newly established Durban Platform. A workplan with a schedule of what must be done to pave the way to this universal climate agreement by 2015 has been set up
- The EU, Switzerland, Norway and Australia have negotiated an eight-year extension and committed to a second Kyoto Protocol period, to ensure continuity up to the new global deal which will come into force in 2020. The new LULUCF rules agreed in Durban last year, in which the JRC played a significant role, represent an important piece of this post-2012 agreement. Targets will be revisited by 2014 with a view to considering raising them.
- The long-running problem of "hot air" has been resolved – buyers will be restricted in how much surplus of unused carbon credits from the first Kyoto period they can purchase. Moreover, the new rules prevent the creation of additional hot air.
- Several EU Member States and the European Commission have promised some €7bn in climate funds for 2013 and 2014, which represents an increase over the past two years. The means for delivering these scaled-up finances and technology to developing countries was also agreed upon.
The EU is strongly committed to reducing emissions. While it has legislation in place to cut emissions to 20% by 2020, this target is likely to be exceeded with cuts in emissions of as much as 27%.
Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate chief, said: "In Doha, we have crossed the bridge from the old climate regime to the new system. We are now our way to the 2015 global deal. It was not an easy and comfortable ride. It was not a very fast ride either. But we have managed to cross the bridge. Very intense negotiations lie ahead of us. What we need now is more ambition and more speed."
IES scientist Mark Dowell hosted a side session at the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) plenary on 'Systematic observations for climate at global and regional scales' which looked at the requirements and coordination of observation and monitoring activities in addressing climate variability and change, and how Earth Observation could help develop climate change services. The session presented the findings of a report prepared by the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) at the request of the SBSTA, which documented their response to the actions defined in the revision of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) implementation plan.
The issue of Blue Carbon (including mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrass) was repeatedly addressed during the negotiations, particularly by Parties representing the tropical regions and Least Developed Counties (LDCs). It was agreed that a workshop would be organised in 2013 to address these and other high-sink ecosystems. The SBSTA Plenary also recognised the progress made in the development of the Global Framework for Climate Services which will be reflected in the conclusions of the COP. The cryosphere was also very well represented in the side sessions with a lot of discussion about the recent results published in Science, which show that the world’s ice sheets are diminishing even faster than previously expected.IES scientist Michel Massart (currently on secondment with DG ENTR - GMES Unit) co-organised a side event on Innovative operational MRV service capacities using Earth Observation, where he presented the GMES initiative and its potential interest for the REDD+ process. The GMES FP7 projects related to REDD+, REDDAF and RECOVER, and the GMES satellite capacities for forest monitoring were also presented. The ESA highlighted the importance of the GMES space segment (the SENTINEL satellites) with its open data policy, and the GEO Secretariat (GFOI) gave the overall context of the technological support. With DG CLIMA, Michel also followed some of the SBSTA Negotiations on the Methodological guidance for activities related to REDD + initiative.
At a side event entitled 'Mobilizing LULUCF in the Post-Kyoto Framework', IES scientist Giacomo Grassi gave a well-attended presentation on the new post-2012 LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) rules agreed by the UNFCCC. As part of the EU delegation, Giacomo also followed the work of the SBSTA on ' Methodological issues under the Kyoto Protocol' related to LULUCF.