Setting the stage for Stronger International Action on Global Warming: Climate negotiations in Doha

The climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar can begin the long-hard process of building a stronger international effort to address global warming.  It won’t finalize that agreement, but it will begin the effort (hopefully).  Here is how.

This is a four-part post.  Part 1 focused on the actions at that are happening at home in key countries and a couple of key issues to watch in these countries.  Part 2 considered the actions at Rio+20 that were essential for moving forward on global warming action.  Part 3 discussed key actions to “close the mitigation gap” that are at critical turning points in 2012.  Part 4—this post—outlines some key debates at the climate negotiations in Doha that are important to “set the stage for even stronger action”.


Since Copenhagen, around 90 countries have come forward with plans to reduce their global warming pollution. Major countries accounting for over 80 percent of the world’s global warming emissions now have specific commitments to reduce their pollution.  But there are some countries that have high emissions per person and have yet to make specific commitments.  Will these countries come forward with commitments in Doha? A couple of key countries come to mind (more information on commitments, emissions, and wealth for countries is available here):

  • Qatar:  Host of the climate negotiations in Doha. Has the highest per capita emissions in the world and the highest per capita GDP in the world. It has the 41st largest total CO2 emissions in 2011.
  • United Arab Emirates: Has the 4th largest emissions per capita in the world and the 6th highest GDP per capita. It also is a significant emitter with the 26th highest CO2 emissions in 2011.
  • Saudi Arabia: Had the 10th highest CO2 emissions in 2011 and is the 23rd wealthiest country per capita.
  • Turkey: In 2011, had the 18th largest CO2 emissions in 2011.
  • Malaysia: Had the 17th largest CO2 emissions in 2011.
  • Argentina: In 2011, had the 23rd largest CO2 emissions and is the 27th wealthiest country in the world.
  • Thailand: Had the 20th highest CO2 emissions in 2011.
  • Egypt: In 2011 it was the 22nd largest emitter.
  • Venezuela: Had the 24th largest CO2 emissions in 2011.

If any of these countries come forward with new commitments to act it will be a very positive sign as they have had 3 years since Copenhagen to make such a commitment.


As my previous post mentioned, we’ve seen important signs of progress from key countries as they’ve begun to turn their “promises of action” into specific changes to their national laws and policies. These actions combined with new ones that will hopefully emerge in the coming months will play a critical role in setting the stage for the future. [I’ll post later with an update on actions in key countries and elaborate on why these actions are so critical for the future]. After all, these countries account for over 80 percent of the world’s global warming pollution so the steps they take will help bend the curve of global emissions.

This year, a number of countries have further outlined the kinds of actions that they’ll implement.  And some countries have continued to show that their actions are helping to reduce their emissions. We know two things from this dynamic: (1) there is still a gap between what these commitments will deliver and the direction we need to head in order to be on a safer path (we must close the gap); and (2) the actions that most countries have put in place to date won’t yet meet their targets (more needs to be done). More action by key countries over next 2-3 years will be critical in helping position them for a strong global agreement in 2015.


Despite the signs that global warming is a clear and present danger, don’t expect the decisions in Doha to provide any major breakthrough in efforts to address global warming. In Doha countries are grappling with three issues that are critical in order to set the stage for future action.

  • Finalizing the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. In Durban countries agreed to finalize the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.  Finalizing this decision will solidify one part of the deal in Durban and allow countries to focus on how to build a more robust global response that includes actions by all key countries. And hopefully this agreement will enshrine even greater action to cut emissions and mobilize investments in developing countries.
  • Wrapping up any “loose ends” from the previous round of negotiations (finalizing the so-called “Bali Roadmap”). In 2006 countries launched negotiations with a “roadmap”.  It wasn’t a detailed roadmap, but some countries feel like the previous agreements in Cancun and Durban didn’t resolve everything called for in the “roadmap”.  It will be important to find a way for discussions on “outstanding issues” to continue after Doha, while not becoming a barrier to securing stronger action in the 2015 agreement. The “outstanding issues” aren’t easily resolvable. After all, the meetings in Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban had the same set of issues in front of them and these meetings weren’t able to resolve them.
  • Launching focused negotiations to secure an international legal agreement by 2015. After the agreements in Durban countries began discussions on the shape of the new “protocol, another legal instrument, or outcome with legal force” (the “legal thingy”). They agreed to finalize this agreement in 2015 and for the agreement to go into effect no later than 2020. In addition countries agreed to try to find ways to increase ambition in the near-term so that we don’t get to 2020 with a “gap”. These negotiations are just beginning so don’t expect major breakthroughs in Doha.  Instead, countries will need to ensure that inception of this negotiation starts off on solid footing.

Countries are expected to resolve these issues in Durban. Hopefully they’ll do that in a manner that sets the stage for even greater international action in the future.

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