The Climate Countdown

LONDON – It seems to have become a ritual for United Nations climate negotiations to reach the brink of collapse before an intense, contentious compromise is achieved after the deadline. But the torturous conclusion to this year’s talks in Doha – in which nearly 200 countries agreed to extend the Kyoto protocol – has merely set the stage for more dramatic negotiations in 2015, when a new comprehensive agreement must be reached.

The just-concluded deal establishes a bridge between the old climate regime and a new, as-yet-undefined one. By extending the Kyoto Protocol – which limits some developed countries’ greenhouse-gas emissions – for another eight years, the Doha agreement preserves the vital framework of international law and retains hard-won accounting rules for emissions allowances and trading between countries.

But the deal also confirms that, in 2020, Kyoto will be replaced by a new treaty, which will discard the outdated binary distinction between “developed” and “developing” countries. The new arrangement will require commitments from all countries that are commensurate with their level of development.

The decision in Doha reaffirms that any new agreement must bolster efforts to meet the UN target of limiting global warming to two degrees centigrade. Indeed, it will spur a review of countries’ emissions targets, aimed at closing the gap between current pledges and the reductions needed to remain below the two-degree threshold. The deal also creates a new mechanism to compensate the countries that are suffering the most as a result of climate change.