The U. N. Conference on Climate Change began Monday in Doha, Qatar. Delegates from nearly 200 countries hope to forge a new agreement on curbing industrial emissions that extends the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate change treaty due to expire this year.
The conference president, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hama Al-Attiyah, reminded delegates in the cavernous Doha National Convention Center that the agenda for the two-week meeting is ambitious and challenging.
“We must achieve a second commitment period under the Kyoto protocol,” he said. “We must achieve progress in what we undertook in Durban.”
In Durban negotiators agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 climate change treaty that expires this year. The protocol identified increased atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, such as industrial CO2 emissions, as a major factor in climate change, and it set emission- reduction goals for industrialized countries.
However, delegates exempted emerging economies like China, India and Brazil, which are now among the world’s largest emitters.
This year in Doha, climate experts hope negotiators can come up with a more equitable formula for curbing carbon emissions.
The executive secretary of the conference, Costa Rican Christina Figueres, told delegates to seize the opportunity. She highlighted recent UN-led reports which point to the urgency of keeping global average temperatures from rising beyond an internationally agreed level of two degrees Celsius, beyond which climate change would have serious impacts.
“On this historic occasion the Gulf region has an unequalled world stage to showcase the contributions made to reduce the Gulf’s food and water vulnerabilities, to put regional energy growth on a more sustainable path and to build a safer, stronger and resilient energy future for all countries,” she said.
The U.N. climate meeting continues through Dec. 7.
Analysis published by the World Bank last week shows the world remains at risk of seeing a four degree Celsius rise in temperatures by the end of the century.
Ms. Figueres stressed that countries can still reverse these trends if they decide to act, since the knowledge, technology and policy options needed to curb emissions are already available to them. However, she emphasized that time is running out.
“Expert analysis consistently says that we do have the possibility to keep on track and that to act now is safer and much less costly than to delay,” she said. “In the last three years, policy and action towards a sustainable, clean energy future has been growing faster than ever. But the door is closing fast because the pace and scale of action is simply not yet enough. So Doha must deliver its part in the longer-term solution.”