Climate change is back on top of the political agenda, and governments gathering next week in Lima for the major UN climate talks of the year (COP20) have an opportunity to harness that newfound momentum.
Their most pressing task is to make significant headway on an international action plan – set to be finalized in Paris at the end of next year – that accelerates the on-going transition from dirty fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy.
Governments have to use Lima to lay the foundation for a Paris agreement. It’s strength will be determined by individual climate action commitments (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – INDCs), which every country is due to submit early next year.
They will need to define exactly what each country’s commitment should contain, how long they should last, how they can be bolstered and how they should be presented.
COP20 is also an opportunity for governments to add crucial support to the Green Climate Fund, which is expected to be the primary vehicle for climate finance. With US $9.6 billion in pledges to-date, the fund is off to a good start; but governments committed to raising $100 billion annually by 2020.
They will have a chance to get closer to that goal in Lima, and offer clarity on how climate finance will scale up to $100 billion in the years to come. Politically, COP20 comes after a string of momentous occasions for the climate movement.
In just the last three months, hundreds of thousands of individuals from New York to Mumbai took part in the People’s Climate Mobilization, where demand for governments to take climate action reached historic levels.
Governments signed off on the latest scientific findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calling for countries to rapidly phase-out fossil fuels in order to avoid destabilizing their economies with increasingly severe and costly climate disasters.
The EU moved to increase its climate action, agreeing to a package of new climate and energy goals. And the world’s two biggest emitters, China and the US, penned a climate agreement committing both countries to unprecedented new steps.
With this momentum in the rear-view mirror and Paris now just a year away, the stakes and expectations for COP20 in Lima are high.