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DOHA, Qatar –Thousands of delegates from 194 nations, including the Philippines, gathered Monday in this oil- and gas-rich Middle Eastern country with a high-stakes goal: to advance actions to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow the accelerating effects of climate change against the backdrop of intensifying climate-related disasters and global financial crisis.
At the two-week long conference, governments hope to agree on a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol and lay the groundwork for a new global treaty by 2020. The Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expires this year.
“ A faster response to climate change is necessary and possible, both in terms of the international policy response and increasing action at national and sub-national policy level and from global business. Doha must make sure the response is accelerated,” said Christiana Figueres, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary.
Figueres said that in Doha, governments will also decide on an effective, fair and ambitious universal climate agreement that is to be adopted in 2015 and will enter into force from 2020; and raise the current inadequate global ambition to address climate change and its impact before 2020.
In addition, countries meeting here need to reach a deal on how to mobilize long-term finance to support action in developing nations, which they have agreed must reach a level of $100 billion a year by 2020.
So far, rich countries have delivered nearly $30 billion in grants and loans that were agreed on in Copenhagen in 2009. A Green Climate Fund designed to channel $100 billion to poor countries has yet to begin operating.
Underlining the importance of decisive action, Climate Change Commission official Heherson Alvarez, who is part of the Philippine delegation to the summit, said the Doha meeting represents a “make-or-break moment for humanity” as the Philippines, for instance, is one of the most vulnerable countries seeking to convey its message at the summit.
“Climate talks are still at a stalemate. Like other developing nations, we will definitely make our voices heard strongly as we call for genuine international solidarity to address climate change,” Alvarez said.
The non-government organization Aksyon Klima has urged the government to continue pushing for a “fair and just climate deal.”
Rowena Bolinas, national coordinator of Aksyon Klima, said “developed countries should continue financing the adaptation measures of vulnerable nations like the Philippines aside from honoring their other commitments and responsibilities.”
The World Bank last week warned that global temperatures could rise by four degrees at the end of the century with potentially devastating consequences that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food production, and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people. The study said that rising sea levels could inundate coastal areas with the most vulnerable cities in the Philippines as well as other countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Mozambique, Venezuela and Vietnam.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), on the other hand, said in its latest study that emissions are set to rise to 58 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. It said that action on climate change needs to be scaled up without delay if the world is to keep the global average temperature increase below two degrees Celsius this century.
“While governments work to negotiate a new international climate agreement to come into effect in 2020, they urgently need to put their foot firmly on the action pedal by fulfilling financial, technology transfer and other commitments under the UN climate convention treaties,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
Steiner, however, said that some actions are taking place at the national level on energy efficiency in buildings, investing in forests to avoid emissions linked with deforestation and a new vehicle emissions standards alongside a growth in investment in new renewable energies worldwide, which in 2011 amounted to $260 billion.