LIMA, Peru, December 14, 2014 (ENS) – A climate deal reached late today by world governments at a UN conference in Lima keeps negotiations on track for a universal global climate treaty in Paris in 2015, but the weak text points to a tough year of talks ahead.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the outcome of the UN-backed climate conference, praising delegates for setting the groundwork for a more conclusive agreement to be reached in Paris.
The UN Climate Change Conference, known also as Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, ended its 14-day meeting late Sunday, two days past its scheduled end. The 196 Parties to the UNFCCC negotiated the draft of a new universal climate treaty that would take effect by 2020.
“The decisions adopted in Lima, including the Lima Call for Climate Action, pave the way for the adoption of a universal and meaningful agreement in 2015,” a UN spokesperson said on Ban’s behalf tonight. “The Secretary-General urges all Parties, at their first meeting in February next year, to enter into substantive negotiations on the draft text of the 2015 agreement coming from the Conference.”
During the final hours of the conference, negotiatiators “stumbled over difficult issues,” the spokesman said, such as how to differentiate the obligations and responsibilities of developing and developed countries.
Frustration grew among many of the attendees.
UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres admitted that the two-week conference had proved to be “very, very challenging.”
Still, she praised the outcome, which left “a range of key decisions agreed and action-agendas launched, including how to better scale up and finance adaptation, alongside actions on forests and education.”
“With this COP and moving on to Paris, we cement the fact that we will address climate change,” Figueres said.
The conference agreed on two deliverables, the Lima Call for Climate Action and the draft elements text for the 2015 Agreement.
As countries come forward with proposed emissions reduction targets in the coming months, the Lima Call requires all countries to describe their proposed target in a clear, transparent and understandable way, enabling the UNFCCC to quantify the proposed contributions.
In order to assess whether these contributions are fair and ambitious and the collective effort puts the world on track to keep global warming below the internationally agreed 2 degrees centigrade, the UNFCCC Secretariat will publish the contributions and prepare a synthesis report.
The European Union tonight said it stands ready to help in this process and engage in constructive discussions with other countries about their proposed targets.
“We have spent many long days and nights seeking a compromise, said Gian Luca Galletti, Minister of Environment of Italy, which currently holds the six-month revolving EU Presidency.
“We thank the Peruvian COP Presidency for its leadership and guidance during these intense negotiations. Although this was a difficult conference, it is important to maintain the spirit of optimism and political momentum that brought us to Lima. The Lima outcome provides a solid basis for the forthcoming negotiations.”
Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy said, “The EU came to Lima to lay the ground for negotiations in Paris. Now, we are on the way to Paris. And although the EU wanted a more ambitious outcome from Lima, we believe that we are on track to agree a global deal in Paris next year.”
Secretary-General Ban has urged delivery of a draft text that provides a clear, solid foundation for the upcoming Paris talks, warning delegates during the Lima conference that “the more we delay, the more we will pay.”
But delegates did not deliver a strong draft on which to build the Paris agreement.
Negotiators accepted a deal the only requires “self certification” of commitments to cut carbon emissions. This is a weak outcome compared with earlier talks that demanded binding cuts in carbon emissions that would be reported and transparently regulated.
The text adopted Sunday no longer requires countries to provide detailed information about their prospective targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Many climate activists were disappointed with the outcome, especially in view of the joint U.S.-China announcement in mid-November that made specific pledges.
President Barack Obama announced an economy-wide target to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
President Xi Jinping said China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030, to make best efforts to peak early and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030.
Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the U.S.-based Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said, “Heading into Lima, we saw clear signs of strengthening will. And in the corridors, you could sense the rough outlines of a Paris deal. But in the negotiating room, countries had a very hard time shifting gears.”
“The US-China announcement last month hinted at a fundamental shift putting developed and developing countries on a more equal footing. It’s no surprise that in Lima a lot of developing countries pushed back,” he said. “Striking a new balance between developed and developing nations will clearly be one of the toughest pieces next year in Paris.”
“What’s most important now is for other countries to declare their contributions to the Paris agreement. As long as others follow the lead of the U.S., China and the European Union, we should have a decent shot at meaningful global deal,” Diringer said.
In his statement Sunday, Ban applauded delegates for having made “important advances” in clarifying their needs for preparing and presenting their so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the new agreement and in “finalizing the institutional architecture for a mechanism on loss and damage.”
INDCs are the commitments countries are expected to make in order to keep average global temperature rise below 2ºC – the internationally-agreed limit aimed at staving off irreversible climate change.
Also in Lima, the $10 billion goal for the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund was surpassed. The Green Climate Fund is designed to direct funding from developed nations to help the most vulnerable developing countries cope with climate change.
But Friends of the Earth’s International Climate Campaigner Asad Rehman is not encouraged by the outcome of the Lima talks. “The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris next year,” he said.
“Once again poorer nations have been bullied by the industrialized world into accepting an outcome which leaves many of their citizens facing the grim prospect of catastrophic climate change. We have the ingenuity and resources to build the low carbon future we so urgently need,” said Rehman, “but we still lack the political will.”
“The next 12 months are crucial – failure to act will have a devastating impact on us all.”
Opening the high-level segment of the Lima conference December 9, Secretary-General Ban warned that, “There is still a chance to stay within the internationally-agreed ceiling of a less than 2 degrees Celsius global temperature rise. But the window of opportunity is fast narrowing.”
“All countries must be part of the solution. All of society must be engaged. Let us speak with one voice. I call on each and every government to achieve and invest in this new climate agreement. I stand committed, and commit the United Nations system, to facilitate this,” Ban pledged.
The next milestone will be the inter-sessional UNFCCC meeting in Geneva from February 8-13, 2015 and the June UNFCCC meeting in Bonn.