Editorial: COP 18: What Doha must deliver

Worlds largest solar powered boat arrives in Doha

Three years go in Copenhagen, on the eve of COP 15 (the UNFCCC’s climate change talks), a group of international newspapers decided to publish the same leader calling for urgent action on climate change. Three years down the line, this urgency has not curtailed; erratic weather patterns and warnings from scientists are increasing year on year and the need for action remains critical. Despite this, there is resounding lack of interest in and coverage on the upcoming COP 18 in Doha, Qatar, probably due to a now widespread resignation that UN is unlikely to achieve any sort of meaningful multilateral deal on climate change. It is important to remember however, that there are important steps that can be taken in Doha.    

Ending fossil fuel subsidies:

The ending of fossil fuel subsidies has become the linchpin on which any adult conversation on climate change revolves these days. The environmental campaigning organisation 350.org and other green NGOs, ran a campaign on precisely this topic during the Rio +20 conference earlier this year and gathered a fair amount of political support for the issue, noticeably from EU Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, who recently alluded on Twitter to the fact that she will continue to fight for this in Doha.  

In the 21st century, subsidies should only be granted to emerging clean industries like low carbon technologies, who need that support to get them off ground. The fossil fuel industry is one of the richest industries on the planet and the fact that they still receive subsidies, whilst at the same time demanding an end subsidies for renewable technologies such as wind power, is beyond absurd. Ending fossil fuel subsidies, however, will by no means be an easy task as all the key industry players will be present in Doha and no doubt be up to their usual tricks of intense lobbying. It is absolutely vital that any deal on the cessation of subsidies is a global deal, as for economic reasons no country will agree to it unless others are onboard.

A global carbon tax:

Placing a price on the use of carbon is absolutely crucial to moving forward. Critics of carbon tax, would argue that the EU version of this, the ‘Emissions Trading Scheme’ (ETS), did in some cases push up emissions instead of reducing them as companies simply moved their polluting activities to China, India and Africa, thereby both pushing up emissions and hampering local economic growth. They would be right; hence the importance of a truly global carbon tax.

California, the biggest economy in the US, has just started a carbon trading scheme; Australia & South Korea is launching one in 2015 and China is planning to launch one in 2016. While this is still some way off, getting plans in place for a global carbon tax scheme is a step in the right direction as it starts to limit polluting activities in other countries with high emissions. A lot of work is still needed in some places, especially in Africa (which could be the next industrial powerhouse) where Chinese companies have been locating themselves and buying up land for years. Therefore, it is vital that Doha sees a consensus on a global carbon tax.

Boosting the green economy:

Facilitating a revolution in the green economy could be a cornerstone in achieving the carbon emission cuts that are so badly needed; ending fossil fuel subsidies and the introduction of a carbon tax would both be fundamental to this. A green economy is one that bring jobs and the right kind growth; one that is sustainable and does not only benefit the most wealthy and powerful corporations. There are huge and exciting business opportunities in the development of low carbon technologies, which we must seize on immediately.

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