The Doha Dead End? Transition Economies and the New Kyoto Rules

FNI Climate Policy Perspectives 9, April 2013

The Doha decision revised the rules of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (CP2). These changes weakened the position of the economies in transition (EITs), especially Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, by effectively establishing the 2008–2010 average emission level as their commitment throughout 2013–2020 without their consent, and simultaneously limiting the use of surplus carried over from the first commitment period (CP1). Russia had already withdrawn from CP2 earlier.

The treatment of the EITs can hardly be deemed equitable in terms of ability to pay for mitigation measures. Their economic conditions are less favourable than those of many non- Annex I countries, which escape binding commitments; and the very limited participation of other Annex I countries in CP2 makes it morally difficult to justify tightening EIT commitments. Further, the fact that the EU ‘bubble’ is based on aggregate target hints at an inequality across EITs.

The original CP2 pledges of the EITs were unrealistic, as they had proposed generating more surplus. However, the Doha decision went to the other extreme, removing all headroom for economic growth believed to lead to higher emissions in the future. As this had not been considered as a policy option prior to Doha, the EITs had not evaluated how to deliver such emission limitations. A more balanced approach would have limited rather than completely eliminated the headroom for growth, or chosen another reference level instead of 2008–2010, in the midst of the global economic downturn. Also the EITs themselves could have done more to facilitate such an outcome.

The decision-making process in Doha stretched the concept of consensus, as the views of an entire group of countries – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan – were ignored. The decision taken had a dramatic impact on the numerical targets of those who opposed, which was unprecedented under the UNFCCC. As a result, the EITs are losing trust in the legitimacy of the climate negotiation process.

The withdrawal of several EITs from CP2 seems likely. This would bring CP2 coverage down to 12–13% of global emissions, and lead the EITs backtracking on existing climate policies. The treatment of the EITs in Doha is also likely to influence the negotiations on a future global agreement. Re-building trust by 2015 is a tall order, and no-one knows how interested other parties might be in engaging the EITs.