Peruvian Minister, President of 2014 UN Climate Talks, Addresses Challenges of Year Ahead

WARSAW -- The president of the next UN climate summit, Peruvian Minister of Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, says the fate of the planned 2015 global agreement on climate change will depend largely on what is accomplished next year at the Conference of the Parties in Lima. 

The current negotiations in Warsaw have been caught up in swirls of controversy, from walkouts and near-walkouts, to Pulgar-Vidal's predecessor, Marcin Korolec, getting sacked as Poland's minister of environment during the talks (Korolec will stay on as COP president), to criticism of the talks' ties to Poland's dirty-burning coal industry, and a general lack of significant progress in negotiations. But Pulgar-Vidal says the process is still moving forward and he envisions it picking up steam over the coming year, regardless of the final outcome in Warsaw. Countries are aiming to sign the agreement at a Paris summit in 2015 so it can go into effect no later than 2020

Pulgar-Vidal spoke to Bloomberg BNA about the challenges ahead on the sidelines of the Warsaw talks on Friday. The conversation took place in Spanish.

Q: You said before the talks started here that you envisioned Lima being a kind of intermediate step between Warsaw and Paris in 2015. But it looks like very little will be accomplished in Warsaw, which means there will be only Lima and Paris available to cover the same ground expected to be covered over three meetings. How much does that worry you?

A: It's an interesting question that I could answer in one of two ways. The first is that if we see the process as Warsaw and then Lima and then Paris, as if they were three isolated parts, then it all looks very pessimistic. But if we look at it as a unified process that goes from one part to the next as part of the same thing, then whatever steps forward we take are positive. The progress being made in Warsaw may not be obvious but it is helping prepare for what's next. That's the first response.

Q: And the second?

A: The second is that we have a clear mandate. We must come up with a draft text for May 2015. So we have to look at next year's meetings as an opportunity. We can't wait for the last minute. I'm pushing to have a strong draft ready by the end of the talks in Lima, and we're working on innovative strategies to unblock and promote progress.

Q: Does that include at least initial emissions reduction targets in Lima for the 2015 agreement? I ask because I know some countries, including the U.S., have been pushing to provide those targets in early 2015.

A: We need them in Lima. That’s essential.

Q: How will you do that? You talked about using innovative strategies. What do you have in mind?

A: We're working on things now but I don't have anything I can describe to you now. But by the end of January I think we'll have some idea of how we're going to approach the problems we face. And obviously, these ideas will be developed with the cooperation of the three countries: Poland, Peru, and France. If we want to have a strong draft in Lima, then we have to ask ourselves, how do we get there? At what time do we need the key elements? Where will the support come from? And how do we negotiate it? I can't make a draft out of nothing.

Q: And what are the answers to those questions?

A: Well, we still have to figure most of that out. But an essential part will be to have some idea of countries' ambitions [for emissions reductions] in Lima.

Q: One of the criticisms here in Warsaw is that the conference is sponsored by companies that pollute--traditional energy companies and carmakers and so on. Is that something you'll avoid in Lima?

A: Organizing and hosting a COP can cost $80 million, which is a lot for a country like Peru. We can't do it alone. We're going to have to rely on a mix of public funds and funds from other sources, whether multilateral groups, international organizations or private companies. We haven't made any decisions about what organizations will back the meetings yet. But I can say we won't use support from any group that would reflect badly on what we are trying to accomplish.

Q: Usually the pre-COP planning meeting is in the same country as the COP. But next year the pre-COP will be in Venezuela. How does that change things?

A: That agreement was part of a compromise and we think Venezuela will be very effective in enlisting the help of civil society, which is very important.  The pre-COP is a time to listen, it's a time to look for consensuses. But we must remember the pre-COP is a preparatory meeting. There is no negotiating going on there. But it can certainly help assure that the Lima COP has a good start.

Q: You've talked in the past about four priorities in the Lima talks: mitigation, finance, nationally appropriate mitigation actions, and "differentiation" -- changing the way the rich-poor divide is approached. This is very interesting. Can you explain that?

A: The 2015 agreement can't be like Kyoto. We can't use the same architecture. We aren't going to forget that rich countries and poor countries have different responsibilities and capabilities, but we need to try to make sure each country does as much as it can and I don't think trying to place countries in pre-defined categories will help. Each country has its homework to do before they get to Lima and we will base our negotiations on that work.