Qatar — Some 200 nations from around the globe have gathered in Doha, Qatar, for the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) taking place from today at the Qatar National Convention Centre.
Represented at the conference are government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organisations, research institutions and the media.
COP18 takes place as different continents have experienced extreme weather conditions, with superstorm Sandy being the most recent. The general sense from delegates at the conference centre is for urgent action in efforts to reduce earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
The United States and China, who are considered to be the world's biggest emitters, have not taken on mitigation limits under the current climate change deal.
Speaking at the opening, President of COP18, President Bin Hamad Abdullah al-Attiya, described the negotiations as historic. "This is a historic conference of crucial importance and represents a turning point in climate negotiations."
He said governments meeting at the gathering will have to stick to the task and timetable they have set themselves to reach an effective, fair and ambitious universal climate agreement that is to be adopted in 2015 and to enter into force from 2020.
They are also expected to recommit themselves under the Kyoto Protocol, move the broad infrastructure of support they have been building for action in the developing world into firm implementation, and decide how to resolve policy issues that remain outstanding under the UN Climate Change Convention.
The protocol, whose first commitment period runs out on December 31, currently binds about 40 rich nations and the EU to an average 5% greenhouse gas reduction from 1990 levels.
Department of Environment Affairs spokesperson, Albi Modise, said South Africa viewed the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol as the cornerstone of the Doha agreement.
"This agreement is important to South Africa and all developing countries. The Africa Key Messages document agreed to by AMCEN in Arusha this year makes it the first priority for Africa. South Africa will be a lead negotiator for Africa on this issue in Doha," he said.
Countries meeting in Doha will also need to reach a better understanding on how to mobilise long-term finance to support action in developing nations, which they have agreed must reach a level of US$100 billion a year by 2020.
Delegates must also draft a work plan for arriving in the next 36 months at a new global climate deal that will be implemented by 2020.
Cabinet ministers from more than 100 countries will join negotiators in the last four days of the conference next month and will be under pressure to raise pre-2020 emission reduction targets, and rich nations to come up with funding for the developing world's mitigation actions.
This conference is an important opportunity for all stakeholders to exchange information and ideas in order to help build momentum for action on climate change.