Baby Steps Expected at Doha Climate Meeting

Negotiators meet for yet another year of slow progress on combating climate change.

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You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard that US negotiators are back at the table discussing global climate policy, this time in Doha, Qatar.

The 18th Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or, more simply, COP18) hasn’t received nearly the attention of its predecessor in Copenhagen in 2009, or even the past two years in Cancun and Durban. I’ve been at the past three COPs, but won’t be traveling to Doha this year, for the simple reason that nothing big is expected to happen. Any progress this year will likely be decidedly small—but that’s okay, too, since setting the hurdles low might mean negotiators can actually clear them.

First, let’s do a quick refresher on negotiations to date. These things go back, as you might guess, 18 years, to the first meeting in Berlin. In 1997, major developed countries signed onto the Kyoto Protocol—though the US famously never ratified the treaty. Flash forward to 2007 (I said this was going to be quick), where the US negotiators representing the Bush administration got booed for blocking progress toward a Kyoto successor and made an about face, agreeing to what became known as the “Bali roadmap,” which said we would reach a new, binding commitment on a climate treaty that included the US as well as major emerging economies like China and India by 2009. And then the US elected a new president who promised that his would be an era in which “the rise of the oceans began to slow, and our planet began to heal.”

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