He later clarified that the US still supports the 2oC target, but favors a more flexible way to reach it than dividing up carbon rights.
Countries adopted the 2oC target in 2009, reasoning that a warming world is dangerous, with flooding of coastal cities and island nations, disruptions to agriculture and drinking water, and the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.
A recent World Bank report showed the world is on track to 4oC of warming. The US, alone among industrialized countries, did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it found it unfair that China and other emerging economies were exempt from any binding emissions targets. The US and other rich countries say that firewall must be removed as the talks enter a new phase aimed at adopting a new climate treaty by 2015 that applies to all countries.
China — now the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter — wants to keep a clear line between developed and developing countries, saying that historically, the former bear the brunt of the responsibility for man-made climate change.
The issue is unlikely to be resolved in Doha, where talks will focus on extending Kyoto as a stopgap measure while negotiators work on a wider deal, which would take effect in 2020.
The 27-nation EU, Switzerland, Norway and Australia are on board, but New Zealand, Canada and Japan do not want to be part of a second commitment period of Kyoto. That means the extended treaty would cover only about 15 percent of global emissions.
Delegates in Doha will also try to finalize the rules of the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to raise US$100 billion a year by 2020. Financed by richer nations, the fund would support poorer states in converting to cleaner energy sources, and in adapting to a shifting climate that may damage people’s health, agriculture and economies.
In addition, countries need to agree on a plan to guide the negotiations on a new treaty. Without a timeframe with clear mileposts, there is a risk of a repeat in 2015 of the hyped-up, but ultimately disappointing, 2009 Copenhagen summit.
Judging by previous conferences, negotiations in Doha will ebb and flow, with progress one day being replaced by bitter discord the next.
In the end, bleary-eyed delegates will emerge with some face-saving “accord” or “plan of action” that keeps the talks alive another year, but does little to address the core problem.