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Will Lima climate talks pave way for a binding treaty in Paris in 2015?


Drought in Sao Paulo, Brazil

A view of the cracked bed of Jacarei river in Piracaia, during a drought affecting Sao Paulo state, Brazil. Photograph: Nelson Almedia/AFP/Getty Images


Powered by article titled “Will Lima climate talks pave way for a binding treaty in Paris in 2015?” was written by John Vidal, for on Monday 1st December 2014 00.01 UTC


When, on Monday morning in Peru, 4,000 diplomats from the world’s 196 countries start their mammoth session to negotiate a new legally-binding global climate deal, they will know they are in the last chance saloon. COP20 in Lima is the last full meeting before Paris in a year’s time, when the deal is due to be signed. If countries cannot bury most of their differences on the major issues by Friday next week, then the chances of a meaningful agreement next year are slim.

The result of failure would be that developing countries are condemned to unchecked climate change for another generation, and the UN process which relies on consensus to get results is fatally undermined.

On the surface, all is going to the plan of the rich countries and the big emitters. Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping of China, who between them are responsible for 42% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, have agreed a deal on climate change. The US will cut US emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, while China has pledged that emissions will fall after 2030. Europe, meanwhile, has agreed to a binding 40% cut by 2030 from 1990 levels. In addition, rich countries have pledged $9.7bn to the new UN Green Climate Fund (GCF). And it has been agreed that, by March next year, every country in the world will have established plans for reducing or constraining emissions as well as producing detailed plans on how they intend to fund climate adaptation.

In reality, the questions start here.

Will developed countries do more?

Lima is the last chance that developing countries have to push for more action from developed countries in the period 2015-2020. To the despair of the poorest countries, the rich have fought to do little more than the very minimum needed, and hopes are already fading that emissions can be held to a 2C rise, considered by science the minimum to avoid dangerous climate change. The recent US-China pact requires neither superpower to do very much, and has dashed all hopes that Paris 2015 will result in the setting of ambitious targets.

Many rich countries now want to sign up to a weak agreement, one with pledges to achieve the targets but no legally-binding requirement, though the EU says it is arguing for legally-binding mitigation targets. The Umbrella Group of countries, which includes the US, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Ukraine and Japan, are all pushing this line of minimal legal requirement.

Some of the major emerging economies like Korea, Mexico and Brazil and are now hiding behind the poorer developing countries and are not willing to take on substantial emissions reduction targets. Their emissions and economies have grown rapidly, yet they are still crying poor.

Developing countries will press strongly in Lima for solid pre-2020 commitments in accordance with scientific assessments. But if the rich and the big emitters do not move, then the result will be worldwide disappointment and cynicism about the UN process. The worry for developing countries is that the less that rich countries do, the more they themselves will have to take on commitments post-2020.

Who pays?

Developing countries last month publicly welcomed the $9.7bn pledged for the GCF, but were in fact bitterly disappointed that it was so little. The money – no more than City of London financial workers are paid as bonuses each year – is to cover 2015-2020 and is so far from what is considered necessary as to be laughable.

Resentment is guaranteed at Lima. Developing countries will press strongly for assurances that the contributions to the GCF are raised to at least $15bn – the minimum necessary, they say, for making it a credible institution. More importantly, they will also want further commitments that $100bn a year will be raised after 2020. This was pledged in 2010, but so far no mechanism has been agreed on how it can be scaled up.

Developing countries will separately press for compensation for the “loss and damages” caused by climate change. The idea has been strongly resisted by the US and other rich countries, which fear they are laying themselves open to unlimited compensation claims. The US and Europe have fought hard to minimise any substantial action on this agenda, but developing countries are unlikely to give way unless stronger action is promised on reducing emissions and a major worldwide insurance scheme is outlined.


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