Seventeen thousand delegates from 194 countries are meeting in Doha, Qatar, today for the 18th UN climate change conference, and pretty much no one is expecting anything useful to emerge from it. Here's what you need to know:
- The stakes are especially high this year because the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of the year, and a "meaningful extension" is considered unlikely, Reuters reports. "Ambition is very low," a spokesman for the African group of nations said.
- Russia, Japan, and Canada have all backed out of the treaty, and the US never signed to begin with, leaving the EU and Australia—who together represent just 14% of world carbon emissions—as its main backers.
- Even those nations want to "carry over" carbon they saved in excess of Kyoto's 2012 targets—making new targets essentially meaningless, the Telegraph reports.
- The sticking point for the US and others: Kyoto demands nothing from developing nations such as India, or China, the world's top emitter. A deal involving them isn't scheduled until 2015.
- In 2009, industrialized countries agreed to provide $30 billion to help developing ones combat climate change—but they haven't followed through, the Economic Times reports. A new assessment shows that the US, EU, and Iceland have committed half their share, or less. A total of $23.6 billion has been committed.
- Ironically, the talks are being held in the nation with the largest per-capita carbon emissions on the planet; the average Qatari uses 44 metric tons of carbon a year.
- Similarly, delegates traveling to the conference will generate an estimated 25,000 metric tons of carbon. The UN encourages countries to purchase offsets for their share of that.
- One reason for all the pessimism: These talks have a way of devolving into "bad pantomime," the Guardian laments. "Adjusting the placement of a comma can take hours."