What’s on the table at COP 18 for the world’s children?

Youth Delegates show their support for an extension of the Kyoto Protocol at COP 17 in DurbanYouth Delegates show their support for an extension of the Kyoto Protocol at COP 17 in Durban (© UNFCCC/2011)

On Monday I arrived in Doha, Qatar for COP 18, the 18th session of the UN Climate Negotiations. The negotiations, which delivered the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, are currently focused on extending the Protocol and agreeing a new legally binding deal among all countries by 2015.

When talking about the negotiations, it is often hard to see the immediate link to children. Not because it’s not there, but rather because so much of the story around the negotiations is about the politics of getting a decision amongst all countries or ensuring any agreement is in line with the science behind climate change. Whilst these issues are undeniably vital, they often overshadow the fact that the UN Climate Negotiations have the potential to deliver real change for children everywhere.

So as Doha gets underway, what are the key issues on the table?  How will these impact on children? And what progress does Unicef UK want to see over the next two weeks?

New Global Deal on Climate Change

In Durban last year, governments agreed a timeline and process for negotiating a new global climate treaty, which will succeed the Kyoto Protocol and will include all countries to a regime of emissions reduction targets. Negotiations for this new deal will conclude by 2015 and the new deal will come into operation by 2020.

Agreeing this new deal is a vital step for guaranteeing progress for children. Governments need to agree the most ambitious, legally binding and fair new climate treaty, to ensure there is adequate climate action to safeguard the world’s children from the impacts of climate change such as more frequent extreme weather incidents both now and in the future.

It is therefore essential that governments make progress at COP 18 on this new deal to limit emissions. Unicef UK wants this new deal to also recognise the specific ways that children are vulnerable to climate change, so that the risks are acknowledged and action taken accordingly.

Kyoto Protocol

A gap in targets for reducing emissions while a new deal is being negotiated would mean further unchecked climate change. Because of this, governments have agreed to a second commitment period of Kyoto to cover this negotiating.

Without a “rule based system” of climate targets in this interim period, there would be no way to ensure that emissions don’t increase. This in turn could mean further climate impacts for children in the most vulnerable countries and prolong the transition to a low carbon society in developed countries.

In Doha, agreement must be reached between countries on the timeline and conditions for the extension of the Kyoto Protocol. Unicef UK is looking for this to be achieved so that we are still on course to curbing climate change and its impacts on the world’s children.


The final key issue for children in the negotiations is that of climate finance. As I have blogged previously, governments agreed in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion of new and additional money a year to help vulnerable countries cope with the impacts of climate change. This $100 billion is essential to ensure that there are enough resources to equip children and communities in vulnerable countries with the skills and tools they need to cope with a changing climate. However, so far no progress has been made on mobilising these funds. This autumn, Unicef UK ran a campaign asking the UK government to speak up for children and commit their share of these funds.

Whilst no country has come forward at COP 18 with pledges towards the $100 billion a year goal, there is still scope for important progress to be made on this issue in Doha. Importantly, governments will consider key questions on climate finance such as deciding where the money will come from and a timeline for progress in mobilising the funds. Agreement on these steps is important in ensuring that children will have enough resources to survive and thrive despite climate change. Unicef UK would like the UK to take a leadership role in securing such decisions.

So despite first glances, there is actually a lot at stake for children at COP 18 in Doha. Unicef is working at the negotiations over the next two weeks to ensure that action agreed reflects the climate risks that children face and the important role that they can play in climate solutions. Now, its time for the governments, including the UK, to take action.

Jazmin Burgess is Unicef UK’s climate change policy officer. She is currently attending the COP 18 talks in Doha.


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