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Doha Climate Change Conference -COP 18

February 11, 2013

On November 25th, representatives from the UN’s member states met to discuss climate change in Doha, Qatar. Called by the United Nations the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Doha conference is one of a series of annual meetings which have taken place since 1995, including the 1997 conference in Kyoto which culminated in the Kyoto Protocol. The challenges facing the conference delegates included crafting a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which was due to expire in a few weeks’ time, as well as expanding the scope of the Durban Platform negotiated two years ago at the conference in South Africa.

With a UN goal to limit the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, the world has not been able to cut enough greenhouse gas emissions to meet this target by 2020. Unfortunately, a recent report from the World Bank has warned of a possible rise of global temperatures by 4 degrees, threatening to bring on rises in sea-levels, more extreme heat-waves, and loss of global bio-diversity. The International Energy Agency in 2011 released an even bleaker report, stating that the world carbon emissions may result in an increase in global temperature to 6 degrees, which would be “catastrophic.”

Negotiating an extension to the Kyoto Protocol at Doha was particularly difficult, balancing the interests of both the developed and developing world. In 1997, the United States refused to sign the Protocol as it increased the burden of carbon-cutting on richer countries, and exemptions to developing nations such as China and India. Now, China has become the world’s largest carbon emitter, and already New Zealand has refused to participate in discussions to extend the Kyoto treaty. Russia, Japan, and Canada also have noted their reservations about signing on to a second Kyoto Protocol. At this point, only thirty nations, including the member states of the European Union, Norway, Australia, and Switzerland have pledged to continue reducing their emissions.

Facing opposition in the Senate, the Obama Administration may also have difficulties in signing on to the agreement. Despite the fact that nearly 70% of Americans now believe in global warming, the Senate may refuse to ratify a new international climate change treaty. Nevertheless, on November 26th the United States announced in Doha that it has succeeded in cutting emissions levels by 8.8% below 1990 levels, meaning that we are on track to achieving our emissions goals by 2020.

At the very least, Doha provides an opportunity for world leaders to renegotiate a global climate change agreement as the Kyoto Protocol is set to expire. The result of this conference hopefully, will be beneficial to the future of the world’s environment.

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