Lima Delegates Find Agreement on Six Broad Topics as Climate Talks Near End

Energy and Climate Report provides current, thorough coverage of clean energy, efficiency, and climate change legislation, regulation, policy, legal developments, and trends in the U.S. and...

By Eric J. Lyman

Dec. 11 — Six main topics to be reflected in next year’s global climate agreement emerged as a rare area of consensus on the penultimate day of the United Nations' Lima climate change conference.

The key topics to be addressed in a hoped-for 2015 pact to address climate change, to be finalized a year from now in Paris, are mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer, capacity building and transparency.

Almost every delegate involved in the negotiation process now says these six principles will be included in next year’s agreement, though it isn't clear how they will be included or what countries will be obligated to do in these areas.

Mitigation

The area of mitigation will involve each country's individual plan for reducing emissions and lessening the impacts of climate change—called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

But what will be included in the INDCs, whether they will be limited to emissions-reduction targets alone or include other elements and how they will be ramped up to include more ambitious targets remained an area of contention on Day 11 of the talks in Peru's capital.

Adaptation

There's also debate on whether a separate adaptation goal should be included in the 2015 agreement. Whether adaptation initiatives should be included in INDCs or some other part of the text appears to be far from a conclusion.

While countries have agreed to provide at least $100 billion a year to help poor countries pay for adaptation efforts when the pact takes effect in 2020, the development of the kind of public-private pathways needed to reach that level are in their earliest stages.

Transparency

The area of transparency is another prickly topic. While the concept appears to have nearly universal appeal, some areas under the transparency umbrella are proving tricky.

For example, countries haven't agreed on whether there should be an official “assessment period” after the submission of the INDCs next year and the start of the Paris talks on Nov. 30, 2015, and if such a period is established whether it should be used to cajole countries into taking on stronger targets.

Rules on “monitoring, reporting, and verifying” are the “core of transparency plans,” EU delegate Elina Bardram said. Most countries believe actions should be monitored from the outside. But other countries, led by China, want to oversee their own monitoring, reporting and verifying.

‘The Six Most Important Areas.'

Despite the problems, it appears increasingly as if these six core principles will be the foundation of the Paris agreement, with two to four intersessional meetings earlier in 2015 used to flush out what each principle means.

“If there is one standard, it is that these are the six most important areas,” Gao Feng, the deputy head of the Chinese delegation in Lima, said in a Dec. 11 briefing. “We cannot leave anyone out.”

Added Costa Rica delegate Giovanna Valverde, “The central results from Lima may be these six areas that are the structure of the Paris text.”

Classifying Countries

A lot of debate has gone into how to separate rich and poor countries in the 2015 agreement so that they can have different types of obligations.

A Brazilian proposal that involves putting countries into one of three or four concentric circles—around a core of industrialized countries taking on economywide targets—has been discussed at great length in the negotiations in the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, the negotiating track for the draft text.

But a new idea is to leave that discussion for a later time. Since INDCs will include each country’s best efforts for confronting climate change, the thinking goes, there will be no need to differentiate between countries in the near term since their pledges will already do that.

Lingering Questions

With the 12 days of talks winding down—Friday, Dec. 12 is officially the last day, though traditionally talks have often spilled over into the weekend—many delegates and observers are talking about the minimum agreement that must be reached in Lima so that a successful outcome will be reachable in Paris. Most say it boils down to some agreement on the nature of INDCs and clearer answers on finance leading up to 2020.

“If we do that here, a good result in Paris will still be within reach,” said Raman Mehta, an activist with the Vasudha Foundation in India.

Celia Gautier from the French Climate Action Network, said, “Without an agreement on finance, Lima’s result will be a toothless tiger.”

Also on Dec. 11, negotiation chairs briefly released—and then retracted—a kind of “synthesis” text to help focus negotiations.

The draft text, which delegates told Bloomberg BNA weighed in at more than 120 pages late on Dec. 11, continues to grow as delegations add new options to various sections that must be whittled down to a unanimously approved document in the range of 10 pages to 12 pages a year from now in Paris. Not a single section has yet been agreed to.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Lima at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com