COP18 Concludes with Agreement on "Doha Climate Gateway"

By Erin Voegele | December 13, 2012

The 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP18) wrapped up last week. Negotiations ran a day overschedule, but concluded with an agreement on the “Doha Climate Gateway.” According to information published by the conference website, the deal marks the beginning of discussion on a universal, legally-binding international agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. COP18 materials specify that such an agreement could be ratified as soon as 2015, and come into force by 2020. A primary goal of the initiatives is to restrict climate increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The agreement is essentially a bridge between the original Kyoto Protocol, which was established in 1997 set to expire this year, and the next protocol, which was addressed last year and expected to be signed in 2015. With the agreement, the Kyoto Protocol has been amended to continue past the end of the year.

“The UN Climate Change negotiations must now focus on the concrete ways and means to accelerate action and ambition. The world has the money and technology to stay below two degrees. After Doha, it is a matter of scale, speed, determination and sticking to the timetable,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The U.S. was represented at the event by the U.S. State Department’s Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs Reta Jo Lewis. Lewis led a panel at the conference, titled “Actions at the Local Level: Integrating Energy, Climate and Economic Development.” Those participating in the discussion included Michael McCormick, the local and regional affairs policy advisor and senior planner with the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research; Thomas Peterson, founder of Center for Climate Strategies and adjunct professor at John Hopkins University and George Mason University; and Maggie Comstock of the U.S. Green Building Alliance.

So, why should any of this be important to the biomass industry?

Let’s assume that the U.S.—and the other nations of the world—actually agree on a legally-binding policy to reduce GHG emissions at some point in the future. Biomass energy can—and should—play a role in meeting those GHG reduction mandates. However, for that to happen, we’ll need to advocate for our industry and make sure world leaders are aware of both the environmental and economic benefits associated with power and fuels sourced from biomass.