This week I leave for Doha where 17,000 participants are expected for the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) on climate talks. The energy is high and a Greenpeace delegation is more ready than ever to send governments this strong message: they must wake up to the reality that climate change is already gripping the planet and urgent action is needed to avoid catastrophic global warming. Even the World Bank and the world's largest investors are asking for more actions on climate change.

Climate change is here

Climate change is no longer some distant threat for the future, but is with us today. At the end of a year that has seen the impact of climate change devastate homes and families around the world, the need for action is obvious and urgent.

This year has already seen devastating storms, droughts and floods causing significant loss of life, including in the US, China, India, Africa and Europe. This should be seen as a warning signal and a test of whether governments will protect their people.

At stake in Doha is the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding cap of greenhouse gas emissions, whose first commitment period expires at the end of this year.

 Greenpeace demands at Doha

 Greenpeace is demanding that a second commitment period be agreed on in Doha, and that it does not carry over the excess emission rights – or ‘hot air’ allocation – that allows governments to trade their way out of real climate action. The leftover hot air is estimated to total 13 billion tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to 2.5 times the annual emissions of Europe.

The problem is getting worse. In the past five years, the growth in coal use has caused over two-thirds of the increase in global CO2 emissions, pushing greenhouse gas emissions to a record high. In recent weeks, the World Bank, the IEA and the UNEP have each warned about the consequences of unchecked climate change.

This is a wake-up call.

The world’s energy economy is not just going in the wrong direction, it is accelerating in the wrong direction.

In Doha governments must:

  • agree to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, and close the loopholes that could give countries a free pass to pollute for years;
  • bring ambition on immediate emissions reductions and urgency back to the talks;
  • set a course for a global, legally binding deal in 2015;
  • make Finance available now and on the long term to help developing countries transform their economies to clean energy and to adapt to those impacts that are already unavoidable;
  • establish a framework which finances forest protection, sets targets for halting forest destruction and includes safeguards for biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples.

The role of Canada

Canada has been a real laggard in fighting climate change. Canada won the ' Fossil of the Year' award for the last 5 years, a price awarded by Climate Action Network International (over 700 NGOs from around the world) to the country who most undermined the annual U.N. climate negotiation session.

 A few other facts about Canada:

  • Only country which weakened its GHG target at Copenhagen in 2009.
  • Only country which withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol before the end of the 1st commitment period (2012).
  • Canada’s GHG target for 2020 (3% above 1990 level) is one of, if not the, worst among industrial countries, far below what science is asking from industrial countries (-25% to -40% below 1990 level in 2020) if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.
  • Canada has no plan in order to reach our govcrnment's extremely weak 2020 target.
  • Canada’s GHG emissions in 2010 were 692 Megatons (Mt) (Co2 eq.), 17% (102 Mt) above the 1990 emissions of 589 Mt. In comparison, the Kyoto target was an average of 6% below 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period.
  • Canada’s still doesn’t have regulations for GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector.
  • Oil sands development is expected to quadruple in the coming years.

Recent U.S. extreme events may wake up the Harper government. As a developed country, Canada must take the lead fighting climate change.

This means Canada has to do our fair share in GHG reductions. Canada must also confirm the remaining 200 millions dollars he previously announced for the 2010-2012 fast start financing (1,2 billion $ in total) to help for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Finally Canada, must announce that new and additional money is available for those countries in 2013 and onward.

At climate talks in Durban last year governments agreed to sign a legally binding global deal in 2015, as well as to cut emissions for the period until it comes into force in 2020. At Doha they must show real progress towards the 2015 agreement and greater ambition on their targets for 2020.

Patrick Bonin is Greenpeace Canada Climate and Energy campaigner and is in Doha on November 30th until December 7. Follow him on Twitter at @patbonin.

For media: Greenpeace at Doha COP 18