Expectations may have been miniscule, bars may have been set ludricously low, and the talks may have came perilously close to draining into the sand, but Doha ended with one small - but groundbreaking - concession. For the first time developing nations - small island states prominent among them - wrested from the richer developed world recognition of the damage wrought by their emissions. 'Loss and damages' made it into the final text of the 18th UN Climate Convention hammered out in Qatar on Saturday.
The measures, long-sought by those faced with the reality of climate change - especially the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) - would potentially provide for monies to be funnelled to developing countries afflicted by both long-term climate change, and short-term climate disasters like typhoons. The $100 billion annual climate change finance, pledged to be ramped up to by 2020 by the developed world, would provide the first port of call for such climate 'damages'.
But it is a bitter pill that such action has become necessary - and taken so long to realize. "If we had had more ambition [from developed countries], we would not have to ask for so much for adaptation. If there had been more money for adaptation, we would not be looking for money for loss and damage. What's next? Loss of our islands?" said Ronald Jumeau, chief negotiator for the Seychelles.
The call for recognition by the industrialized world of their responsibility for climate change, because the majority of extra GHG's in the atmosphere relates to their historic emissions,was pushed hard by AOSIS.They wanted an insurance scheme, funded by the rich countries,to pay out for climate-enhanced disasters, like Typhoon Bopha. And they wanted longer-term assistance to compensate for economic losses caused by changing weather patterns, or rising sea-levels, to be triggered automatically.
They didn't get anything so specific. And they didn't win any new money either. The US and EU almost didn't sign up. But they did finally gain some hope that small islands are not to be left to fend for themselves. Conscience has been visibly pricked. Now the really hard work starts, as AOSIS Chair, and Nauru's Foreign Minister, Kieren Keke, said:
"This is not where we wanted to be at the end of the meeting, I assure you. It certainly isn’t where we need to be in order to prevent islands from going under and other unimaginable impacts. The outcome provides little more than a gateway to a long path. There is a fork in that path. We need to take the correct turn when we reach that fork or this process will collapse and our nations will disappear.”