Reflections from COP18, Monday 3 December

Shah Mohammad Ashraful Amin, Christian Aid, Bangladesh

COP18 is important in terms of its unique geo-political location, since this is the first time ever that a COP has taken place in the Gulf Region. It is also very important from a temporal dimension, as it is taking place at the end of the first commitment period and beginning of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP). Furthermore, the expected conclusion of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the beginning of a new era of negotiations under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) has further increased the significance of COP18.

Since the Conference started on 26th November, lots of discussion has taken place on preparing a work plan on ADP with clear milestone and deadlines; amendment of 2nd commitment period of KP, creating new opportunities for public financing, the work programme on Loss and Damage Assessment; and fostering national adaptation plans through Adaptation Committee.

At the half-way point of the two-week climate talks, debate on the length of the commitment period of the KP is ongoing. The Least Developed Country (LDC) group is expecting a five year commitment period, whereas the EU is pushing for eight years. New Zealand, Canada and Japan have all said that they will not sign up – threatening the future of a legally binding agreement on emission reductions.

Besides this, there is still lot of ambiguity regarding climate finance. In the Cancun Agreement it was clearly stated that the money from Fast Start Finance is to be “new and additional”, but to date, it is not clear whether Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) counts under this definition.

In spite of several conflicting issues, it can still be expected that there will be no gap between the first and second commitment period of the KP, that various institutional arrangements and bodies will be operational, and that there will be some clarity on the disbursement of Fast Start Finance and the scale of finance between 2013-2020 by the end of COP18.

Reflections from COP18, Saturday 30 November

Jade Neville, British Council Climate Champion

With the excitement of Young and Future Generations (YoFuGe) day over, the first week at COP18 drew to a close. Progress within the negotiations slowly but surely indicates that final agreements are beginning to form. On Friday, Christiana Figueres announced that by the end of Saturday, documentation and text would be produced for all Ad-hoc Working Group and Subsidiary Body issues, giving delegates piles of reading to look forward to on Sunday!

On Friday afternoon, a press briefing with Chairman Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya focused on Qatar's Commitment to Civil Society Engagement on Climate Change Issues. “As it is Friday, all around the city hundreds of mosques are giving their sermons. What is interesting is that 150 of those mosques are giving their sermons on climate change and on the environment, which is exciting news. It seems the message is being received by a wide range of communities as we speak.”

As the British Council delegation are gearing up to give presentations on climate change in schools and universities across Doha next week, there are additional signs that the conference is rousing interest and discussion in the area. According to Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya, this year’s COP has witnessed unprecedented participation from NGOs within the region. Around 50 Arab NGOs are in attendance, with the presidency supporting regional NGOs to increase participation and community support. Outside of the COP, Friday night also saw The Indigenous Environmental Network present the Middle Eastern premier of The Carbon Rush in Doha.

COP18 President Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah also announced that Qatar is planning a green transportation system to get more people in Doha using public transport. Headway is clearly being made but, with Qatar having higher carbon dioxide emissions per capita than any other nation, is this sparked new interest within the country really significant enough?


Reflections from COP18, Saturday 30 November

Rennie Qin, International Federation of Medical Students' Associations

Health is unique in the sense that it is that it is both an endpoint of climate change effects on other sectors and also a capacity that is much needed for the development of other sectors. For this reason, it must be considered as a central principle in all negotiations. Protecting health in climate change is not just about its inclusion in the text, but also in its implementation. Yet the issue has largely been absent from the discussions that took place in Doha last week.

The place of health in the COP18 negotiations is two-fold. Firstly, it can be used as powerful motivation for climate change mitigation. In the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) negotiations this week, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) mentioned health as a moral argument for ambitious mitigation pledges. Arguably the best way to protect health in climate change is for temperature rise to stay below 1.5°C.

Secondly, health has to be protected in adaptation. In the soon-to-be closed Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) negotiations, there are many areas for its inclusion. Health should be considered as a central principle in the shared vision and part of the social and economic consequences of response.

A health-in-all-policy approach should be incorporated into inter-sectoral responses. Health must be a part of technology transfer, capacity building and finance discussions. It was therefore disappointing that there was a distinct lack of mention of health in these areas during last week’s negotiations.

In the SBI discussions, it is positive to see that public health education is already a part of Article 6. Negative health impacts have to be recognised as one of the key damages associated with climate change. Health impact, risk assessment and management, as well as insurance cover for health, must be included as a part of the new loss and damage work programme.

The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-ADP) negotiations open an exciting area for many health co-benefits of climate change mitigation to be incorporated in, as well as traditional economic co-benefits. We shall follow the negotiations with an eye on health co-benefits as AWG-ADP shapes up in the coming week.

Reflections from COP18, Thursday 29 November

Tariq Al-Olaimy, AYCM Coordinator for the Kingdom of Bahrain

In the negotiations, discussions around the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) are getting very serious with two roundtables on ambition today, and one roundtable on a 2015 agreement, as well as a planned roundtable on finance for later on in the week. During long-term finance discussions, the Filipino negotiator took the floor saying, "I am surprised we still don't have long-term finance in 2012. With proposals put forward such as the Green Climate Fund Forum, and the context of the global economic situation, it doesn't seem that there is much scope within COP18 for concrete pledges.”

From civil society, today was future and young generations day. Arab Youth undertook actions asking Arab countries, and Qatar especially, to submit concrete pledges for mitigation targets at COP18 in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Whether from civil society or government delegations, a lot of questions have been raised on the direction of the COP18 President, Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah. In a meeting with youth today, he answered questions on his role as a president and his hopes for COP18:

"There are many complicated issues; how to balance the world, how to tackle climate issues, as well as how to balance between interests and decision. The challenge is to produce a text that brings together everyone, and is not just representative of Qatar."

"The world should move quick, failure will be not be individual failure, but to the whole world. Success will also benefit the whole world."


Reflections from COP18, Thursday 29 November

Jian-Chao Wang, British Council Climate Champion

Today, on the fourth day of COP18, youth groups held several important events. Because today was the Young and Future Generations (YoFuGe) Day! First, a youth moderated discussion with H.E. Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the COP18 President, was held in the morning, on the state of COP18 and the role of youth in the climate talks. The president actually cancelled the NGO-wide briefing yesterday evening but decided late last night to hold a briefing for youth only, after hearing it would be YoFuGe day today.

During the briefing, H.E. Abdullah mentioned to the youth he still remembers being a young student, and expressed the strong opinion that:

"If we don't support youth, who should we support?"

in response to questioning on his support of the youth. He told the young people in attendance that action against climate change is an affair of all ages and all nations. Instead of pointing blame at each other, the Parties should take action and work as a team to move forward. Regarding Qatar's national situation, he described the investment Qatar has put into science and technology on areas such as renewable energy and CO2 emissions reduction. The President also presented on how the COP panel and Qatar are supporting women to be a solution to climate change.

The Inter-generation Inquiry took place later in the day and was attended by Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figures, former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson and Representative to the UN for Grenada, Dessima Williams. Mary Robinson's speech about the importance of responsibility and justice to climate change won a big applause from the youth:

"as a youth you should feel angry about what is happening and throw your shoes at the TV next time you see it".

I am happy to witness such active involvement of this stakeholder group in all parts of the Conference and hope that the youth of today become key decision makers in the future.