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27th Sep 2020

Poland obstructed EU climate ambitions at Doha, activists say

  • The United Nations summit on climate in Doha failed to deliver, say climate activists. (Photo: Mikko Itälahti)

Climate activists say Europe failed to deliver at the UN’s Doha conference on climate change.

“This time Europe – usually seen as a leader on climate change - comes away with dirty hands,” Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace international, said in a statement on Saturday (8 December).

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Poland demanded to keep its ‘hot air’ carbon credits awarded to them in the 1990s in opposition to developing countries, which wanted the surplus emissions scrapped altogether.

The surplus credits, also collected by Russia, Ukraine, and Japan, total 13 billion tonnes of CO2 - or almost three times of what the 27 EU-member states pump into the air each year.

The credits were handed out under the initial 1997 Kyoto protocol and allow Poland to emit far greater carbon into the atmosphere than its EU counterparts. Poland can also sell a fraction of the emissions on the market.

European decision makers at the summit, says Greenpeace, sided with Poland to keep the surplus emission credits, preventing them from committing to a more ambitious carbon-emissions plan.

“EU climate diplomacy is stuttering, with Polish obstruction having prevented any change to the ambition of the EU position,” said Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi.

Hassi says the EU could cut carbon emissions by 30 percent in 2020 and not its stated goal of 20 percent compared to 1990 levels.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change says current global carbon emissions may increase the world's temperature between 4 to 6 degrees Celsius.

The Doha summit brought together almost 200 nations to extend, by seven years, the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire on 31 December.

But large carbon emitting nations decided not to sign on, including Canada, Russia, Japan, and New Zealand. The US and China, the world’s two largest carbon emitters, have also largely opposed the pact.

The US signed the first Kyoto protocol but never ratified it.

Instead, the EU, Australia, Switzerland and another other eight industrialised nations signed up to Kyoto’s extension, representing some 15 percent of total global emission output.

The nations agreed to draw up a new global climate agreement in 2015 and adopt ways to reduce global climate emissions by 2020 to keep the Earth’s temperature from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius.

“In Doha, we have crossed the bridge from the old climate regime to the new system. We are now on our way to the 2015 global deal,” said EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Commitments made by rich countries in 2009 to mobilise a €100 billion annual fund by 2020 to help developing countries fight climate change also failed to materialise.

The EU, for its part, said it will provide the full €7.2 billion it pledged in ‘fast start’ finance for the period 2010-12.

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