COP18 - Doha 2012: Day 2 of the Conference

by Reed Smith
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[authors: Peter Zaman, Nicholas Rock, Pryderi Diebschlag]

Introduction

With the opening speeches and administrative proceedings complete, the delegates were free to concentrate on the job at hand and the conference opened on “Gender Day” Tuesday 27 November 2012 with a new air of purpose. 

In addition to resuming the plenary session of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (“SBI”), the delegates met for the opening sessions of the three prime working groups, on Further Commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (“AWG-KP”), on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (“AWG-LCA”) and on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (“AWG-DP”). 

The Doha Conference: Day Two

Predictably for this early stage, little, if any, substantive progress was made but the clear focus of many minds was on the manner in which the second Kyoto Protocol Commitment period would be implemented. With Australia’s announcement of a much criticised 0.5% emissions reduction target by 2020, and many other developed countries either not having proposed a QELRO1 at all, or having proposed targets considered far too low by developing countries, there is concern that the political enthusiasm for an all parties binding agreement in 2015 may stall if Annex 1 countries stick to what other nations consider “deeply inadequate” emissions reduction targets.  

AWG-LCA

The meeting began with discussion of an informal overview text, compiled following consultations with the parties in Bangkok earlier this year, covering the elements of the Bali Action Plan which still require resolution. Little was achieved as regards the substantive issues, however, there was broad agreement that the parties must now look forwards, with the Umbrella Group2 most notably expressing a desire to move to full implementation of the post-2012 undertakings.

Several countries expressed concern as to the lack of clarity which surrounds financing in the 2013-2020 period, whilst the Umbrella Group confirmed that (in their view) the “fast-start” commitment has been met, and the EU stated its intention to “scale up” finance towards 2020. The African Group requested clear milestones for finance going forwards, while the less developed countries pushed for a common platform of accounting rules to boost confidence in the area and others pressed for a doubling of fast-start financing for the 2013-15 period.

As regards the future of the working group, which (in light of an understanding that was reached at the Durban conference) most parties expect to be terminated following this conference, opinions were split about how this could best be achieved. Broadly, the Arab Group suggested working towards agreement on the outstanding issues before transferring any unresolved matters to other existing Subsidiary Bodies, whilst in contention, the BASIC Group3 felt that the working group could only be closed down once all of the elements of the Bali Action Plan had been fully addressed. In true COP style, the only discernible decision was that a decision must be made.

AWG-KP

There were no surprises in this meeting, with the parties statements agreeing that discussion had to focus on the length and practical continuity of the second commitment period, raising the levels of ambition with regard to countries’ QELROs, the carry-over of surplus assigned amount units (“AAUs”), and parties’ eligibility to participate in the flexible mechanisms: Clean Development Mechanism (“CDM”) and Joint Implementation Mechanism (“JI”).

The Umbrella Group and the EU expressed a desire to see an eight year second commitment period, whilst the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, AOSIS and Climate Justice Now contended that the current ambitions were too low and that a second commitment period which “locked in” such inadequate levels of ambition for eight years would be a disaster rather than a success. Interestingly, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations did at least express a willingness to consider an eight year term provided it included a mid-term review mechanism with the possibility for deeper cuts following, for example, publication of the fifth IPCC report. Developing countries, led by the G-77/China group continue to press for developed countries to commit to QELROs to reduce emissions by at least 40-50% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 25-40% by 2017.

Doha of course represents the last opportunity for the COP to secure a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol without any gap between the first and second periods. At least there seems to be consensus that a second commitment period must start on 1 January 2013, with even the Umbrella Group (which includes the USA) clearly agreeing with this objective.

The issue of access to flexible market mechanisms also drew clear lines in the sand. The Umbrella Group understandably opposed the broad agreement that has developed amongst non-Annex 1 countries that developed nations which have not adopted commitments for the second commitment period should not have access to the flexible mechanisms, even if they commit to undertake potentially comparable commitments independently. This issue is a prime bargaining chip in this particular debate. In a closely related proposal, most developing nation representatives led by the G-77/China group continue to press for strict limits on the carry-over of surplus AAUs into the second commitment period.

Work on these aspects will continue in the contact groups and in spin-off sessions.

AWG-DP

The parties outlined their views for how the conference should proceed, with all parties agreeing that a clear route map is required in order to capture the political momentum that is hoped to lead to an agreement in 2015.

Beyond the walls of the convention, President Obama signed a bill which will bar U.S. airlines from participating in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU ETS”). This announcement was not unexpected and is far less incendiary than it might have been given that the European Commission announced last week that it proposes to delay the application of the EU ETS to international flights entering and exiting the EU in order to allow time for a global solution to be reached through the International Civil Aviation Organisation. If this route fails, the European Commission’s suspension will be lifted in 2014. For more information on the European Commission’s proposal, please see our two client alerts on the issue: http://www.reedsmith.com/Up-in-the-air--the-suspension-of-the-aviation-EU-ETS-for-non-EU-airlines-11-15-2012/ and http://www.reedsmith.com/Up-in-the-air--the-suspension-of-the-aviation-EU-ETS-for-non-EU-airlines-UPDATE-11-22-2012/

The Day Ahead

Today sees the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (“CMP”) to discuss amendments to the Kyoto Protocol and the CDM. The COP will also meet for the second time, on this occasion focussing on Articles 15 and 17 of the Convention and the financing of the Green Climate Fund. There will also be another meeting of the SBI and numerous contact groups, spin-off sessions, informal consultations and other meetings.

Conclusions

With little substantive progress achieved or expected by this early stage, the media flashlight turned onto Poland yesterday in light of its potential as the venue for COP 19 next year. Strong criticism was levelled at the country by some parties due to its insistence on full carry-over of AAUs as a prerequisite for their participation in a second commitment period and for having opposed European efforts to increase their emissions reduction targets on three occasions. Poland was not, however, alone in attracting specific criticism, with Australia’s newly announced emissions reduction target being roundly criticised and Turkey, which like New Zealand has already declared that it will not sign up to a second commitment period, being voted Fossil of the Day!

Let us see what tomorrow brings.

___________________________________
1. Quantified Emissions Limitation or Reduction Objectives
2. Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States.
3. Brazil, South Africa, India and China.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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