Doha climate deal is conditional: what other alternative does it leave for the Least Developed Countries?

by Angeline Annesteus & Lurette Paulime

One of our goals coming to the climate negotiations in Doha was to lobby the Haitian Government. We have been meeting with the delegates and have had some very thought-provoking conversations. However after a long discussion at lunch yesterday with the delegation and the Minister of the Environment, Jean Vilmond Hilaire, we realized how firm they were in their position.  This blog reflects the position of the Haitian Government and the likelihood of such positions within the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as well as the implications of it in Doha and beyond. 

Being part of Earth in Brackets and having taken many environmental politics and diplomacy classes with Doreen Stabinsky, we have cultivated solid background knowledge of the complex and evolving process of the UNFCCC and have a clear understanding of where to stand on some key issues that are on the table here in Doha. For example, we know that we want to see a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol and a firm agreement by the developed countries to deliver on finance in order to help the developing world strengthen their mitigation efforts.

So, driven by the same frustration that everyone is faced with while waiting for a climate deal to come out in Doha, our question at the very beginning of our first conversation with some of the Haitian delegates was “are you guys pushing for a Kyoto second commitment period?” To our great surprise, they said “no.” Their arguments were that Kyoto has not been effective at all and that the emerging economies such as China and India also need to take their responsibilities toward mitigating climate change.  This is true, but as far as we are concerned, we know that Kyoto protocol is the only legally-binding agreement under the Convention that has established a timeframe for the developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. In fact, many parties and climate oriented NGOs share a similar view regarding China and India; however, they also argue that this is something that should be done through the means of implementation such as finance and capacity-building.

Our conversation with the delegates regarding the Kyoto Protocol in the past week or so was not progressing, but we randomly met the Haitian Minister of the environment along with the other delegates in the food court. We had to follow some interesting meetings but since we know that the Minister will intervene in the high level closing segment of the negotiations on Wednesday, we thought that this could be our last chance to influence Haiti’s position in the climate deal in Doha.  He invited us to join him for lunch so we did.  We then asked him the same question about Kyoto. Unlike the delegates, his answer took a different path but not one of influence on his position. A summary of his conversation follows:

This is the eighteenth UN climate negotiations and there hasn’t been any tangible climate deal to help the developing countries face the burden of climate change, which they are not responsible for. When it comes to the least developed countries, including Haiti, the situation is even worse. For example, Global Environmental Facility (GEF) funding is meager and it takes Haiti approximately two years to get funding for a given project with more than half of the funds going in to the process of having it.  So, our objective here is to establish bilateral relations that can provide direct finance to Haiti in order to provide a better life to its people and invest in adaption and mitigation projects. “You are Haitian and have experienced the situation at home, would you have a different position?”

This is the type of question that we youth have to face here in Doha. When you try to push for a good climate package, some Ministers respond back by asking you what you would do differently.  The same thing happened in the youth meeting with the UNFCCC secretariat with Christiana Figueres. Those types of questions make us wonder about the dilemma we youth might face tomorrow. Youth are part of civil society fighting for complete climate deals now, but what would youth do differently when they face the reality of actually being negotiators? How would they deal with their own position on issues and those of their Ministers back home? There are certainly many different perspectives on how we youth see ourselves as negotiators tomorrow, but let us get back to our conversation with the Minister.

We did not really answer the question, but we tried to convince the Minister that his role here in Doha is to contribute to the best possible outcome, which  is the most needed to limit warming to 20C. Warming is expected to escalate between the 2012-2020 period. If this happens, it will certainly exacerbate Haiti’s vulnerability to climate disasters.  Besides, how long have the least developed countries tried to establish bilateral accords with the developed countries instead of pushing firmly for a good climate deal? Eighteen years, we would guess.  So, what are the results of those deals? From what we see so far, there are very minor changes, if at all, in the socio-economic and environmental conditions of those countries and in Haiti in particular.

Being Haitian, we are aware of the socio-economic conditions of Haiti and its vulnerability to climate change influenced weather events.  However, Haiti, and all the LDCs as a whole need to be firm and reconsider their positions in climate negotiations. Because of their economic situation, the LDCs are more likely to step back in blocking harmful climate deals in order to secure bilateral relationships with certain developed countries, which for them can directly and quickly deliver financial support to help promote development and facilitate some climate actions toward adaptation. In our view, this type of deals only serves as a band-aid on a very serious issue because they cannot prevent Haiti from being hit by climate change influenced weather events such as extreme floods or severe hurricanes.

As it is often the case, what the developed countries want is business and harmful deals at the expense of climate mitigation. Ironically, they are asking to increase ambition on mitigation and adaptation but they don’t want to fulfill their obligations by delivering on finance and the means of implementation, including transfer of technology and capacity-building. With only three days left to conclude the negotiations, what we see in Doha is a very weak climate package with nothing on finance that has the potential to substantially hinder climate action now and onwards and to perpetrate the socio-economic and environmentally vulnerable state of the developing world.  In fact, the implications of the lack of moral and political will among the developed countries will lead to the detriment of the future of climate—the sort of crisis that humankind is ever faced with but with impacts most severely manifested in the developing world.

In the eyes of the Minister, our views on the issues make us out to be two naïve girls that need to face the reality of the real world. Isn’t the reality is to get things done now so that we can secure a future for youth? 

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