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Nov 29 12

Ambition and Equity: The Need for Interim Actions

The following post is from Michael Williams, Senior Policy and Legislative Advocate

If the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) negotiations in Doha have you feeling somewhat lost or confused, wondering why there is such a focus on technical implementation issues (making the Durban Accord operational, getting more country pledges) when the breadth of the climate change problem is so huge, you're not alone. Deep, sweeping change is needed, but this COP will not be delivering. 

However, getting the elements of the Durban Accord (and the agreements from Cancun and Copenhagen before it) up and running and encouraging more countries to engage in the effort (making official pledges would be best, as 105 have not) is actually quite important. How can we achieve a meaningful global deal in 2015 (as the Durban Accord maps out) if we do not operationalize many important elements countries have already agreed upon? 

The answer is that we cannot, and that is significantly unfulfilling. But these negotiations, dispiriting as they might be, must address two highly controversial - and vital - issues to make a global deal successful. Ambition - how are we making sure we're doing enough to address the problem? Equity - how do we structure this global effort so that everyone is doing their fair share? (The burden decreasing from developed to developing.) 

This picture is from the ADP Roundtable on Workstream 2. Lead US negotiator, Jonathan Pershing is pictured center right with his head in his hand.

There are fundamental differences in how countries believe these issues should be addressed, but we will not just argue our way to solutions here. This is pretty evident here in Doha. Fights over agendas, draft texts, so on and so forth take up so much time, but that should not prevent this process from arriving at solutions on undeniably difficult and fundamental issues like ambition and equity in time to actually get the world on a 2 degree path. 

For right now, we must take what we can agree upon and move it forward. Operationalize the commitments on the table. Increase ambition wherever possible, especially when it comes to mitigation and finance. If we can do this we can build the political will at home and subsequently, at the international negotiating table, to finally address those two issues and strike a global deal. If we avoid these interim – some say boring – actions, then we won't even have a shot. 

Finally, I just want to leave you on a positive note. In the ADP roundtable on workshop 2 (the discussion taking us on the path to, hopefully, an agreement in 2015), the Chair, Harald Dovland, stated rather emphatically in response to a call for greater political will in the room, "We are here to deliver, and to deliver in the short term."

After a period of deep pessimism, I'm starting to think he might be right.