Delegates Urged to Aim for ‘Transformation' At High-Level Phase of Lima Climate Talks

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By Eric J. Lyman

Dec. 9 — The high-level segment of the Lima climate change conference got under way Dec. 9 with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling for “transformation,” not “tinkering” as delegates from nearly 200 nations work toward a global climate pact set to be finalized in a year.

Also on Dec. 9, the Green Climate Fund finally passed its much-heralded $10 billion threshold for this year, after receiving a $60 million pledge from the government of Belgium.

Soon after, Australia—which said earlier in the week that it wouldn't donate to the fund, preferring instead to back its own bilateral aid projects—said it would add $165 million to the fund, paid out over four years, bringing the total for 2014 to $10.05 billion. UN officials said additional contributions will probably emerge before the end of the year.

With a $3 billion pledge, the U.S. is the largest donor to the fund that aims to help poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. But big challenges remain for the fund, which is expected to increase funding levels to at least $100 billion per year by 2020.

Determining pathways to that level, including national pledges, special levies and private-sector participation, is one of the main goals of the Lima talks. A solution could appear in the Lima communiqué, or in the 2015 draft text, though if no conclusion is reached by the end of 12 days of talks on Dec. 12, it will be pushed back to talks scheduled for 2015.

High-Level Session

The launch of the final highest level phase of the Lima talks drew more attention to the main plenary, but the addresses served mostly as a call to action rather than as a shift in national positions.

“This is not a time for tinkering; it is a time for transformation,” Ban told the packed plenary. “I am deeply worried that our collective actions do not match our common responsibilities” 

Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and the Republic of Nauru, along with Ban, comprise the head of state-level delegations for the high-level segment. Other countries send minister-level delegation heads for the segment that will finalize on the main conclusions of the Lima negotiations. In an unexpected turnaround, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to arrive Dec. 10 to head the U.S. delegation in the final days of the talks.

UN officials told Bloomberg BNA that work involving the new delegation heads was getting started on language for the final communiqué that will be the centerpiece of the Lima talks, even as the opening remarks were taking place.

Delegations also are expected to continue work on the language in the 2015 draft text within the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP)—the negotiating track seeking to hammer out language for the next that will be finalized a year from now in Paris.

National Pledges 

The main area of contention revolves around the nature of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), each country’s pledge for action to confront climate change due next year.

Delegates told Bloomberg BNA that consensus remains elusive on a variety of key points, including whether or not the INDCs can include actions other than greenhouse gas mitigation plans, whether all countries will be allowed to file the same kinds of INDCs, whether they will be for a five- or 10-year commitment period starting in 2020, and whether the pledges in the document will be legally binding.

In remarks Dec. 9, Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal acknowledged the difficulties remaining in the ADP track, but predicted the arrival of the high-level delegation heads would help spark progress in this area.

“The political will to help make the compromises and the agreements necessary will come from the high-level delegation heads,” Pulgar-Vidal said.

How to Classify Countries 

Other key sticking points include agreeing on a way to differentiate the responsibilities of rich and poor countries and whether the 2015 text will include financial goals and adaptation goals.

Areas in which delegates said a consensus appears to be emerging include the creation of a set of deadlines for submission of INDCs, with a March 2015 deadline remaining for most countries, but a later May 31 deadline added for countries that need extra time to finalize their submissions.

Countries appear to be on the verge of agreeing to the creation of a formal “assessment period” or “review period” after the submissions of the INDCs, but a gap remains between countries that believe that period should be used to lobby for stronger targets, or merely to digest the information provided so it will be ready for the Nov. 30, 2015, start to the Paris talks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Lima at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at