Kyoto Protocol extended

Wilma Mansveld, State Secretary of Infrastructure & the Environment, is satisfied about the outcome of the climate summit in Doha, capital of Qatar. "Naturally, I would always like more, we and the EU have after all worked hard, but I am satisfied with the outcome. The Kyoto Protocol has been extended to 2020, we will be working constructively on a new climate instrument for 2020 onwards and agreements have been made on climate funding,” according to the State Secretary at the close of the summit.

Over the past few days, the Netherlands and the EU did their utmost to arrive at climate agreements. The Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Doha was focused on three things: extending the Kyoto Protocol to 2020, a new climate instrument for 2020 onwards, and climate funding. 

Extension of the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol has been extended for a second commitment period to 2020. Ms Mansveld: "I am pleased, because the Netherlands and the EU have put in their best efforts to achieve this. On the minus side, however, fewer countries are now participating. In addition to the US, for example, Canada, Japan and New Zealand have now withdrawn. Yet on the plus side, the reduction in this second commitment period is 18% compared to 1990, while initially this was just 5.2%. Moreover, the extension ensures that all the rules and agreements, on emissions trading and reporting, for instance, have not been lost." 

New climate instrument

Ms Mansveld is also very satisfied that it has been set down that all the countries and other parties together will now already explore the actions that can be undertaken to achieve results up until 2020, when the new climate instrument should go into force. It is necessary for every country in the world to make a contribution. This new plan also has a broader scope: in addition to agreements on reducing emissions it includes adapting to the consequences of climate change (climate change adaptation), for example, floods.

Given that the commitments in the original Kyoto Protocol only apply to the old developed countries (except the US) and that the world situation is now different (due to the emergence of new economies, like China and Brazil, the old group of Kyoto countries only accounts for a small portion (14%) of global emissions), a new plan is needed. Therefore, last year in Durban it was agreed to realise a new, legally binding instrument. "We aren’t there yet, but I’m pleased that here in Doha those agreements have been reaffirmed and we have agreed a work programme. This provides a solid foundation for the path to 2015," according to State Secretary Mansveld. In that year, the agreements on the plan should be signed by all the countries and the instrument is to go into effect in 2020.

The Netherlands wants a future-proof new plan that can adapt to global changes. A plan with no black-and-white divisions between developed and developing nations. Every country must make the best contribution it can, and this could change over the years. The instrument must be realistic and offer customisation (no one-size-fits-all solutions) but it must not be free of obligations. It must be focused on action and, in this regard, also encourage the business community and other parties to provide input and join forces.

Climate funding

The Netherlands has fulfilled the Copenhagen agreement on "Fast Start Finance". This involved financially supporting immediate action on climate change and kick starting mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries from 2010 to 2012. Although this agreement terminates after this year, the Netherlands will continue to finance climate initiatives in developing countries, in 2013 to the amount of 200 million euros. It was agreed in Doha that in the year ahead, further consultation will take place on what the structure of climate funding will be between now and 2020. Several – mainly European – countries announced they would continue climate funding in 2013. These promises were important to provide developing countries with the security that they can also count on support in the year ahead to make their economies greener and to tackle the effects of climate change.

What are we going to do?

Collaboration between authorities, businesses and knowledge institutions

In the years ahead, we will be working more closely with companies and knowledge institutions to contribute to combating climate change and its consequences. The innovations and financial strength of these parties are essential to meet the challenges of climate change together. The Netherlands has, for example, a great deal of expertise in the fields of water, food security and energy and we are already collaborating with various countries in these fields. In the case of water, for instance, with Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia. In the future, companies and knowledge institutions should be more closely involved and this is a key factor in the Dutch strategy. It is also in line with our ambitions for the new climate instrument: to offer customisation and to have everyone make a contribution that is appropriate. In this way, we can work in a complementary manner.

Informal section

The annual climate conference is, however, more than a decision-making process for the Parties: the informal section is very important. On the fringes of the formal meetings, people and organisations from all disciplines and sectors come together: the business community, young people, global cities, and civil society organisations (NGOs) like those active in the environmental movement and women’s rights organisations. What they all have in common is that they are pursuing solutions to the climate problem.

Ms Mansveld: "I was inspired by my talks with the Dutch youth representatives, businesses, NGOs and other countries. The coming together of like-minded people results in a fruitful breeding ground for the exchange of ideas and experiences and for forging coalitions. In this way, the annual climate conference provides a platform for launching initiatives outside the formal Conference of the Parties. In Doha, I sought contact with a number of these initiatives. This is in keeping with my ambition for the Netherlands to be at the vanguard and to undertake action. For example, I announced that the Netherlands is becoming a member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a new and growing international partnership that is engaged in combating short-lived air pollutants like smog, methane and soot. Reducing the emission of these substances has benefits for public health as well as significant benefits for the climate. In the Netherlands, we are actively implementing policy, for example, the National Air Quality Partnership Programme."

The Netherlands also participated in the Cartagena Dialogue – an informal group of some 40 countries from 5 continents who together come up with constructive solutions and present these during the formal negotiations. The Cartagena Dialogue is an excellent arena for assessing new ideas and creating support, such as for the Dutch vision for a dynamic and flexible new climate instrument, or a modern approach to adaptation (climate change adaptation).

In short: many useful things happen alongside the formal decision-making process. The State Secretary will use the time ahead to have these informal initiatives translated into major contributions to the global effort.