Saturday, December 29, 2012

The 2012 Doha Climate Change Conference: The “Promise” Conference?

Despite having no new ground broken on how to comprehensively reduce our current greenhouse gas emissions, does the 2012 Doha Climate Change Conference only “promises” to do so?

By: Ringo Bones

Ah, the 2012 Doha Climate Change Conference – as in Doha 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference/COP18/CMP8 – could only be defined as a “success” if you consider “promises” of the richest industrialized countries would really translate to a guaranteed effort to reduce preventable greenhouse gas emissions before some set date far off into the future. Well, even the incumbent U.S. President Obama and his challenger Romney never even mentioned the topic of climate change during their debates during the 2012 US Presidential Elections so if the very act of other group of rich and powerful countries “promising” to reduce their preventable greenhouse gas emissions makes you seem a tad hopeful about the future, then good luck to you. 

But the “game changer” of the 2012 Doha Climate Change Conference  was the devastation brought by Typhoon Bopha to the Philippine shores back in December 3, 2012 that reignited the very idea of climate change compensation or “Climate Change Aid” dominated the second week of the Doha Climate Change Conference. This is where poor or developing countries will be promised compensation by the rich or developed countries for the damages caused by climate change. 

The very idea of “Climate Change Aid” or “Climate Change Compensation” has been around since the early 1990s when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was negotiated. In Doha during the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference, a coalition of countries – including The People’s Republic of China, The Alliance of Small Island States and the G77 Group of Developing Countries pushed for it to be viewed. 

They proposed a scheme that would decide when countries had suffered climate harms and compensate them. It would be a form of insurance (or derivatives – whichever is promised) and the greatest international aid scheme ever. The idea eventually gained momentum during the second week of the Doha Climate Change Conference after Typhoon Bopha struck the Philippines back in December 3, 2012 and that country’s negotiator – Narderev “Yeb” Saño – broke down in tears during a speech. And although developed nations had little incentive to agree, the conference concluded with a promise to set something up next year. 

Compensation poses a fundamental challenge to climate science – which still struggles to work out of trends and events are caused by man-made preventable greenhouse gas emissions or would have happened anyway. “We can’t say that an individual event was caused by climate change”, says Nigel Arnell of the University of Reading, UK. “What we can do is say that the chance of it happening was greater”.  Sadly, this very loophole of climate science not yet catching up with geopolitical procedural rigmarole will be exploited by affluent countries to avoid compensating - make that paying for climate change aid - the climate change related events causing untold suffering in poorer countries. 

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