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By Eric J. Lyman
Dec. 15 — Climate negotiators from around the world meeting overtime in Lima, Peru, agreed to a deal in the early hours of Dec. 14 that keeps hopes alive—if barely—for a significant global agreement to address climate change a year from now in Paris.
The delegates from nearly 200 countries agreed to a schedule for progress leading up to the Paris talks, and set the table for an aggregate comparison of each nation's detailed plan to cut its emissions—their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)—which must be submitted to the United Nations in the coming months.
But expert observers said after two weeks of talks, delegates left almost all the other heavy lifting for at least two sets of intersessional meetings scheduled for February and June, and for the Paris talks themselves.
“Parties averted disaster that would have come from a lack of agreement in Lima,” Alden Meyer, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview. “But this text is much weaker than earlier drafts in that it makes all the upfront steps voluntary and then it removes the review process that could have challenged them.”
Their agreement on Day 14 of the scheduled 12-day conference, in a document the delegates called the “Lima Call for Climate Action,” will allow countries to include initiatives for adapting to climate change, not just fighting it, in their INDCs.
The text also set out the six main principles to be the backbone of the 2015 agreement: mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, and transparency of action and support.
But significantly, it did not address differences in how countries define those terms.
The document was finalized only after delegates determined that work on an early draft of the actual 2015 text of the global agreement would be delayed until a round of intersessional talks two months from now in Geneva.
The Lima Call for Climate Action called for a 2015 agreement that “reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances,” but left for later a determination of how obligations under the final agreement might differ between rich and poor nations.
And it cut out much of the strongest language appearing in earlier draft texts, including a section that created an “ assessment period” for formally reviewing INDCs after they are submitted. It also removed much of the language on how responding to climate change will be paid for, pushing major finance talks to negotiations for the 2015 draft text that had already been tabled until February.
Most of the language on increasing action before 2020, when the Paris text is expected to enter into force, was tabled until discussions next year.
UN officials told Bloomberg BNA that one or two more intersessional talks could be added to the calendar for 2015 and that the high-level segment of the Paris summit might be a day longer than normal in hopes of fostering an agreement.
The Lima talks continued nearly 33 hours beyond their scheduled conclusion Dec. 12, narrowly missing becoming the longest UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) summit since the first annual meeting in 1995.
At one point, there was speculation that any agreement would prove elusive in Lima and that COP talks would be suspended and reconvened in February, something that happened only once before, in 2000.
The Lima Call for Climate Action helped avert that fate, and Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the minister of environment and president of the COP, declared the meetings a success, saying: “Lima helps pave the road to a successful outcome in Paris.”
Pulgar-Vidal and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the president of next year’s summit, announced the creation of a “Lima–Paris action agenda” to help spur the process along through a series of local and regional initiatives designed to increase public awareness, build popular support for strong action, and enlist support among corporations and political leaders starting with the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, late next month.
In his remarks, Fabius praised the work accomplished in Lima. But his comment—“It left at least a little work for us in Paris”—elicited laughter from exhausted staffers and journalists.
Others were less generous in assessing the talks.
After a “long, drawn out fight … the end result is still far from what people need,” said Meena Rama, from the Malaysia-based Third World Network. “This bodes badly for what is possible out of Paris.”
Winnie Byanyima, executive director for Oxfam International, agreed: “There is still a vast and growing gulf between the approach of some climate negotiators and the public demand for action,” she said.
In her remarks, Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said negotiators will have to hit the ground running early next year in order to reach a successful result in Paris. Figueres said making progress on the 2015 draft text that was delayed in Lima and assessing the INDCs when they start to come in March would be the highest priorities for the first part of next year.
Next year’s summit in Paris will be the first attempt to create a global climate agreement since 2009, when the largest-ever climate summit dramatically failed to reach a significant agreement in Copenhagen. Parallels between the current process and its state in 2008 and 2009 arose repeatedly in Lima, and in his remarks, Pulgar-Vidal addressed them.
“This process is still suffering from the ghost of Copenhagen,” the minister said. “In Peru, children are told that if there are many ghosts, you cannot kill them all at once. You have to do it one at a time. I hope we have at least killed some of them here in Lima.”
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The Lima Call for Climate Action is available at http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2014/cop20/eng/l14.pdf.
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