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UN Climate Conference in Lima, Peru

United Nations climate negotiations will convene at their annual summit, known as COP20, to be held in Lima, Peru, from 1 – 12 December.

The meeting comes after a year of increasing public mobilization on issues relating to climate and energy, and the murder of indigenous activists trying to protect forests in Peru.

The focus of the conference is the negotiations of the “Durban Platform” (or “ADP” as a UN acronym), which was launched in 2011 and is scheduled to be concluded at next year’s UN Climate summit in Paris in December 2015.

The negotiations under the Durban Platform have two objectives:
Increasing the level of climate action, including the strength of targets and the provision of climate finance, in the pre-2020 period; and developing a new agreement ‘with legal force’ to apply to all countries from 2020 onward.

At last year’s Climate Summit governments agreed that the Lima meeting would:
produce ‘draft elements’ of a negotiating text for Paris; and the prescribed ‘information’ that the UN should know about each country’s planned ‘contribution’ to that agreement.

The Lima conference also serves as a place to apply and implement existing climate agreements, including analyzing countries’ climate pollution reports and approving decisions made by the governing body of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s existing treaty for internationally binding climate targets.

Similarly, the summit is a place for a range of technical negotiations on issues such as rules relating to accounting of emissions from different sectors of the economy (like forestry or agriculture) , as well as politically contested ideas such as international carbon offset trading.

In parallel to the meeting of governments, a Peoples’ Summit will be held from 8-11 December to highlight citizens’ rights and their solutions to climate change – with a march through central Lima, planned for Wednesday the 10th.

Key emerging questions from the talks to which you can find more information below are:
How can the talks drastically improve pre-2020 action and deliver an outcome on that objective?
What impact do recent US, EU and China announcements have on the potential effectiveness of a post-2020 agreement?

Should issues like international climate finance, technology access, and adaptation to climate impacts be included as core elements of the post-2020 agreement?

Reactions from Global Civil Society

“These talks come in the shadow of the one year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, the most destructive storm in human history, as well as even more science that proves what we already know – the urgency of the climate crisis is only growing. To confront it we must set a global limit on pollution over time, known as an ’emissions budget’ and share it fairly. Governments cannot shy away from the fact that these negotiations are about the emissions budget, and the issue must come front and centre here in Lima.” Lidy Nacpil, director of Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, said from the Manila.

“Negotiations on a new climate deal are struggling due to trust issues and broken promises. We were promised a legal second commitment period of Kyoto, we don’t have it. We were promised that emission cuts would be strengthened this year, we are yet to see a tangible commitment to this in the lead up to Lima. It’s time to walk the talk from Lima to Paris.” Mithika Mwenda, General Secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), said from Nairobi.

“This conference is the pivot point for the whole show next year. It may seem to be procedural but the structure and scope of international climate law will be decided here. Rich developed countries cannot be allowed to get away with the complete deregulation of international climate law – setting their own rules and limiting focus to only a few issues.

A crisis the scope of climate change requires a comprehensive response and I am sure many developing countries, those most impacted by climate change they have not caused, will fight for that in Lima.” Meena Raman, negotiation expert at Third World Network, said from Penang, in Malaysia.

“Farmers facing devastated crops, and people forced from their homes by floods and rising sea levels, know that climate change is not just about controlling pollution. It’s also about dealing with the impacts of a changed climate now. If these negotiations do not help countries to deal with the real impacts of climate change, and only prioritise emission targets, they will have failed the very people this agreement is meant to protect.” Harjeet Singh, International Manager, Resilience and Climate Change at ActionAid International, said from New Delhi
“These talks have two things to deliver and the first is greater climate action pre-2020.

A failure on pre-2020 action undermines not only the talks but ignores the warnings by climate scientists for more urgent and ambitious action, risking the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. The best way to fight climate change is to transform our energy systems away from our addiction to dirty energy – bringing energy to the billions who have none at the same time would be a win-win situation. Concrete proposals are on the table at the UN to address energy via a global feed-in-tariff scheme. These must be taken up here in Lima,” Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at Friends of the Earth EWNI, said from London.

“For peoples in Latin America this conference is an opportunity to shine a light on an entire development model that is failing the people and killing the planet. Building economies on continuous extraction and continuous consumption only drives more climate change. The types of targets discussed by Europe and the United States don’t diverge from that script at all – they keep us on track for catastrophic climate change.

However, the Peoples Summit in central Lima, and the march for human rights on the 10th, will be examples of people building real solutions and real alternatives like community controlled renewable energy, or agroecology.” Martin Vilela, coordinator of the Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, said from La Paz.

1. Will a lack of pre-2020 action undermine future talks?
In fact, the Lima conference will open with developed countries ‘pledging’ effectively no climate action between now and 2020 and global pledges putting the world on track to risk up to 4C of warming by the end of the century.

This has been further undermined by the fact that Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States are set to pollute above their insufficient current promises.
This follows on from a Ministerial meeting in June, which was supposed to see the 2020 climate targets of developed countries revisited, but saw no movement.
And an international climate finance ‘pledging conference’ in November, which did not even live up to deliberately lowered expectations, let alone matching the actual need.

Similarly, the Kyoto Protocol, the existing international climate treaty that is supposed to cover developed country’s targets until 2020 has not formally ‘entered into force’ because too few governments have made a proper legal commitment to it, despite promising to do so in 2012.

This lack of action by the countries with the biggest history of climate pollution and the most wealth available to tackle it, combined with broken promises on revisiting their targets and legally binding them under the Kyoto system, is severely undermining trust in the talks.

Whilst, in contrast, developing countries are proposing to do more total abatement than developed countries by 2020 and this year were recognized as leading the way in creating national legislation on climate change.

Given this context, talks on pre-2020 action (known as “Workstream 2”) will be a lightening rod issue in Lima.
Areas of particularly differences include: how to scale up action at an aggregate level; how to have an outcome on pre-2020 action in Paris; and whether particular technical work is needed.

Several observers hope that a more focused and collaborative approach on the energy sector could be a substantial outcome of the talks under Workstream 2, including via a Globally Funded Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff, which would ensure decentralized community controlled energy access for the almost 2 billion people without electricity – but without replicating the dangerous existing model of energy generation and distribution.

A detailed update of the Green Climate Fund pledging conference can be found here.
A proposal from the African Group to the UN to address renewable energy can be found here.
2. Have the US, EU and China given up on the 2C goal?

The leadup to the Lima Conference saw the release of reports by the IPCC (the UN’s climate science panel) which outline how much climate pollution can be released over time to avoid levels of warming – this limit is known as an ’emissions budget’ or ‘carbon budget.’

By using such ’emission budgets’ and converting them into feasible pathways for pollution levels, it is possible to assess current 2025 and 2030 emission target proposals from countries such as the US, the EU, and China against temperature goals, like those agreed under the UN, for 1.5C or 2C above pre-industrial levels.

All analysis shows that these most recent proposals do not align with those temperature goals, unless those countries expect every other country to undertake drastically deeper cuts, forcing into question the political commitment to the 1.5C or 2C temperature goals.

This is particularly worrying given the United States’ new target is actually a retreat from what it promised in 2009, even though it is the biggest historical polluter, and the country with the greatest resources and capacity to address climate change.

To address this issue, several countries, such as Ethiopia and Bolivia, have proposed more explicitly taking up the idea of the ’emissions budget’ in the negotiations.

Similarly, questions of the scale of commitments from different countries being based on objective criteria, such as historical responsibly and capacity, will be brought into focus as various countries begin to justify their proposed climate actions.

Such proposals will be contentious, with perennial blocker the United States having publicly opposed such suggestions before, as they are likely to reveal the lack of significant action in the U.S., even under President Obama’s leadership.

A copy of the ‘draft elements non-paper text’ which includes reference to the emissions budget can be found here.

An interactive map showing how much each country actually needs to reduce emissions for the 1.5C or 2C guardrail is here.

3. A comprehensive agreement – addressing finance, adaptation and loss and damage

Given the devastating impact of climate change already on millions of people, on their homes and their access to food and water, the UN climate agreement needs to address issues in a balanced way. This means addressing issues beyond just pollution targets.

In UN conference language this means countries taking on targets for finance and technology transfers, and addressing adaptation and ‘loss and damage’ issues. Action on all these issues is needed as part of the outcome for Paris.

All parties agreed in Durban (2011) that work would cover mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity and transparency. Despite this agreement, it seems some countries (mainly developed ones) want a narrow Paris agreement focused on mitigation, to the exclusion of other issues.

Although the current draft ‘text’ of elements includes these other issues, this text has no legal standing and it is unclear of its status within the talks.

In contrast the ‘draft decision’ text will form the basis of the legal outcome of the Lima Conference, and that document currently allows for countries to determine their own ‘scope’ of contributions to the agreement.

This would mean that some countries could decide their ‘contributions’ would be focused on pollution targets only, and not on climate finance. This would narrow the negotiations to cover mitigation, and risk shifting the burden from the richer to the poorer countries in the negotiations.

Many developing countries are concerned by such a process and so a lot of procedural wrangling can be expected in Lima as those who are focused on a more comprehensive agreement work to rectify the current proposed text.

A short brief explaining the issues at stake in the content of the Lima decision and national contributions is here.

The current proposed ‘decision-text’ is available here.

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