AS Advent begins around the world, for lobbyists, campaigners,
and negotiators, the first week in December marks crunch time at
the annual UN climate-change summit.
The 18th Conference Of the Parties (COP18), meets this year in
the fossil-fuel-loving capital of Qatar, Doha. Its object is to try
and make progress on curbing the harmful carbon emissions that
contribute to climate change.
Minds have been focused this year by the extreme weather events
around the world, from severe droughts in the American south and
the Sahel region of Africa, to the unseasonally catastrophic
flooding in the Philippines, and the Superstorm Sandy, which caused
devastation across the Caribbean and on America's East Coast.
At last year's summit in Durban, South Africa, all 196 nations
agreed to draw up, by 2015, a new global agreement to tackle
climate change, which would come into force by 2020.
Here in Doha, policy-makers have been negotiating four main
The first is to start work on the global treaty agreed in
Durban, known as the Durban Platform. The parties must have this in
place by 2015 at the latest.
The second is to agree what countries will be doing between now
and 2020 - a crucial period, as scientists are warning that the
planet must stop increasing carbon emissions by 2017 to avoid
catastrophe. To do this, parties are negotiating an extension of
the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding global climate treaty,
in which developed countries, such as those in the EU and
Australia, have signed up to reduce their emissions.
The third is to agree what measures will be taken by countries
not covered by the Kyoto Protocol, which is everyone else. These
include developed countries that have opted out of Kyoto, such as
the United States and Japan, and developing countries that have
become major emitters, such as China and India.
The fourth plank of the negotiations is that of climate finance.
In 2010, developed countries agreed to create a fund which would
distribute $100 billion a year to developing nations, to help them
adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as flooding in
Bangladesh and droughts in Africa. It would also help them to
develop in a low-carbon way using modern technology and renewable
Although this Green Climate Fund has been established, it is
currently an empty pot, and needs developed countries to start
filing it with cash.
So, there is plenty of work for decision-makers to get through.
On Wednesday, Government ministers from around the world will
arrive at the talks to hammer out the final details, before the
summit closes in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid's senior climate-justice adviser, is
at the talks. "This is an important transition year for the planet
and for the UN climate negotiations. It's important that the work
of the last 20 years is not lost and is incorporated into the new
"Crucially, it needs to be built upon what the science is
telling us is required to avoid the planet warming by more than 2
degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We've already seen
what is happening to the climate around the world in recent years,
and that is at just 0.8 degrees of warming.
"We can't allow the new agreement to be dictated by simply what
governments offer to do. If that happens, climate change we've
already seen will get worse, and the poorest people in the world
will suffer the most."
Joe Ware works in the Christian Aid communications