Doha agreement paves way for new climate action

OPEC Bulletin Commentary January 2013

Doha opened up "a new gateway to bigger ambition and to greater action" at the latest round of climate change negotiations in the Qatari capital.

This was the clear message from the host country's Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Emir's Court, Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah, at the end of the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The event was held jointly with the Eighth Meeting of Parties [CMP8] to the Kyoto Protocol.

Al Attiyah, also President of COP18/CMP8, stressed that governments must now move quickly "through the Doha Climate Gateway" to push forward with solutions to climate change. In doing so, he was echoing the sentiments of other top OPEC Member Country delegates at the meeting.

The 'gateway' marks the beginning of discussions on a universal, legally-binding international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which should be ratified in 2015 and come into force by 2020. The breakthrough meeting also saw the launch of the second commitment period of the Protocol, to last eight years. On top of this, the Parties endorsed the completion of new institutions and agreed on ways of delivering scaled-up climate finance and technology to developing countries.

Less than a week after COP18/CMP8, OPEC's Conference noted "with satisfaction that the event's positive conclusion paved the way for a new course of action for designing the future climate change regime."

This comment was hardly a surprise because OPEC collectively and its Member Countries individually have involved themselves heavily in the climate change talks since they started in the early 1980s.

After all, the stakes are very high for developing countries whose economies are heavily dependent on petroleum export revenue. As OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri put it in the Organization's formal statement to the Doha meeting: these countries are "doubly vulnerable" - to the effects of climate change itself and to the adverse impacts of response measures.

The statement said that climate change was a threat to sustainable development and "concerned all of us". It stressed that the Convention's principles and provisions "should remain the cornerstone of climate change negotiations, in particular the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and of equity, and with economic development and poverty eradication the overriding priorities of developing countries." Turning to the Protocol, it added that developed countries, given their historical responsibility, should take the lead in mitigation and adaptation efforts. This included using their extensive financial and technological capabilities to help developing countries with their mitigation and adaptation activities.

Thus, the statement contended, "the provisions contained in the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol should be fully implemented … to minimize (the) adverse impacts and to assist OPEC Member Countries to adapt by diversifying their economies through increased investment and technology transfer."

However, important though the UN-sponsored climate change talks are, OPEC's commitment to environmental issues is, at the same time, more universal in nature. It embraces other targets with strong environmental benefits: developing cleaner, safer energy; tackling local pollution; improving efficiency right along the production chain; and, more generally, making economic gains wherever possible.

Above all, OPEC's statement refers to its Member Countries being very active in alleviating energy poverty, especially through the OPEC Fund for International Development. OPEC's Second Solemn Declaration of 2000 said that the "biggest environmental tragedy facing the globe was human poverty." Seven years later, the Third Solemn Declaration stated that energy was essential for poverty eradication and declared the objective of the eradication of energy poverty in developing countries.

This really underlines the greatest environmental challenge of all. This is to ensure that future generations have a cleaner, healthier, safer, fairer and more prosperous world in which to live across the globe.

The climate change negotiations are already taking us a long way down this road. Accordingly, we are committed to reaching a comprehensive, balanced, 'win-win' outcome based on a full consensus.

A report on COP18/CMP8 can be found on pp8-15.

OPEC Bulletin January 2013

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