December 12th, 2012 by

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP18) wrapped up last week in Doha, Qatar. Here’s a recap of what happened.

COP18 Conference in Doha, Qatar. Credit: IHA Central Office/Flickr

In the final hours of the conference on Saturday, representatives from nearly 200 countries decided on a final deal called the Doha Climate Gateway, an extension of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020 with the hopes of reaching a new global climate change agreement in 2015. Admittedly not a perfect plan, policymakers see the Doha Climate Gateway as a step in the right direction. Ed Davey, energy and climate change secretary from the United Kingdom, notes to The Guardian that the plan will pave the way for future discussions and the potential for a new global climate change treaty. Based on the talks in Doha, this new treaty would build upon the ground laid by the Kyoto Protocol, but require both developed and developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmental groups showed concern about plans for an international climate change agreement that requires less economically developed countries to adhere to reductions standards similar to those of developed countries.

On the sidelines of COP18, about 700 forest policymakers, scientists and experts meet for the sixth annual Forest Day. This popular side conference was established to discuss forests’ role in climate change. As urbanization and population growth continue, land scarcity has become a huge concern. This puts strain on forests and agricultural lands. Not only do these lands provide food for our growing population, but they also serve as critical carbon sinks that mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Participants at Forest Day discussed the use of more landscape-based management approaches that incorporate forests, agriculture and energy to ensure the best solutions for all sectors can be achieved. They agreed that this type of approach is essential to increasing food production while keeping forests healthy and mitigating climate change.

Another major topic at COP18 was funding, which has been a longtime concern for developing countries feeling the effects of climate change. The issue is that developed countries are dealing with the effects of the global financial crisis, which results in little contribution to climate change. But developing countries received a somewhat unexpected funding assurance at COP18. An agreement was reached to work on funding the “loss and damage” incurred from climate change. While the agreement doesn’t legally bind countries to contribute to the fund, this is still a huge victory for developing countries for a few reasons. First, it means that developed countries are listening. Second, this agreement highlights the shortcomings of developed countries in terms of mitigation efforts. I hope this realization will open the door to establishing a stronger, more ambitious climate change treaty for 2015.