Hundreds of country negotiating teams have been meeting in Lima, Peru over the past two weeks for the latest round of international climate negotiations. Mat Hope of The Carbon Brief gives an excellent overview of the results and discusses next steps. Overall conclusion: international climate negotiations have taken a step forward, but only a very small step.
The talks concluded in the early hours of Sunday morning with the meeting’s chairs unveiling a 43 page document that lays the foundations for a new global climate deal.
The Lima Call for Climate Action attempts to resolve some of the pressing issues ahead of a meeting in Paris in December 2015 that should agree a deal.
It appears to commit all countries to making emissions cuts, and reiterates the need to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees celsius.
But the Lima agreement leaves the most controversial issues to be dealt with at a later date. As a consequence, some campaigners have branded the text weak and ineffectual.
We’ve analysed an unedited version of the Lima text to explore what it may mean for a new global deal. This text appears to agree with the final agreed text, but we will update this briefing as required.
The Lima deal, formally called the Lima Call for Climate Action, is in three parts.
The first part is the conclusion of the Lima meeting, which commits all countries to tackling climate change along the lines of previous agreements.
New developments that have been agreed in Lima are contained in Annex 1 of the document. Called the ‘elements for a draft negotiating text’, this essentially provides an incomplete version of a global climate deal text. The annex text builds on a previous ‘non-paper’ proposed by the chairs ahead of the Lima conference, which outlined 23 items that needed to be addressed.
This is far from being a final, agreed text. Some clauses still have as many as 11 different options, for example.
But that was always going to be the case. The Lima document is meant to provide a “vaguely comprehensible” text ahead of next year’s crunch talks, climate news and analysis website RTCC observes. The Lima meeting has been more about deciding what issues would be on the negotiating table over the next year than agreeing solutions.
Here are the key areas of discussion, and disagreement.
Negotiators are trying to design a climate deal that all countries can accept, which is also ambitious enough to prevent temperatures rising by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.
That has been the de facto goal of climate negotiations for decades, but every year that emissions rise makes staying within the limit more difficult. Analysis by thinktank Ecofys’s Climate Action Tracker project shows that emissions reduction targets agreed by the EU, the US and China could curb warming to around three degrees. If the world is to hit the two degrees goal, more countries will have to cut emissions at some point.
The Lima deal contains three different options for stating the world’s broad level of ambition on climate. All of them refer to the two degrees goal and the need for all countries to act. In other words, the Lima document contains the same top-level goal for limiting temperature rise as previous climate declarations.
Campaigners also wanted a reference to ensuring the world would have net zero emissions by 2050. It seems they have got their way. The mitigation section of the draft text states countries must aim for “a long-term zero emissions sustainable development pathway” that is “consistent with carbon neutrality / net zero emissions by 2050, or full decarbonization by 2050 and/or negative emissions by 2100.”
Lima did not resolve whether a new global deal will be legally binding – one of the biggest controversies in the process.
The Lima agreement lays out three options for what the legal status of a deal could be – it could take the form of an extension to the Kyoto protocol, which the US has not ratified, or “another legal instrument” or an “agreed outcome with legal force”.
The EU wants countries’ commitments to be enshrined in law as it believes a binding deal makes it more likely countries meet their commitments. The Small Island Developing States bloc is also in favour for the same reason.
But the US is adamant this can’t be the case, as it would then have to get Congress to agree to the deal, which is very unlikely. The world’s largest emitter, China, is unlikely to sign anything that doesn’t include the US, so the legal status of the agreement has become something of a deal-breaker.
That could explain why Australia, which is broadly hostile to international climate policy – is pushing for a legally binding deal. Pushing for legally binding goals could be the easiest way to make negotiations collapse, the Conversation argues.
Negotiators went into the Lima negotiations hoping that the traditional standoff between developed and developing countries might have eased. But it appears that isn’t the case, the Guardian says.
Poor or less-developed countries still argue that the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ is the right way to structure a deal. That would mean rich countries with the greatest historical responsibility for climate change and the means to implement low carbon policies take the biggest and earliest steps to cut emissions. This principle is enshrined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Rich countries need to realise they can’t do away with their historic responsibilities, and emerging countries need to accept that the global deal to be signed next year in Paris needs to reflect their changing circumstances”
Countries like India are very protective of the principle, which means richer developed countries would take the bulk of responsibility for cutting emissions now. But some developed countries like the US say the world has changed. A number of emerging economies are expected to have crossed over into the developed category by 2020, they point out, and it makes sense for these countries to commit to some emissions reductions now.
The Lima agreement contains 25 references to ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. But it has made some progress on evolving the principle’s definition. It says countries must work to ensure a 2015 deal “reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”
The London School of Economics’ Grantham Institute says there are good reasons for countries to move away from common but differentiated responsibility. It finds that countries basing their commitments on equitable burden sharing or a ‘right to emit’ often means their goals are relatively unambitious. Instead, countries should make contributions based on opportunities to develop in a low carbon way, it says.
Ultimately, both sides need to compromise if they are going to succesfully agree a new global deal, Christian Aid’s senior climate change advisor tells RTCC:
“Rich countries need to realise they can’t do away with their historic responsibilities, and emerging countries need to accept that the global deal to be signed next year in Paris needs to reflect their changing circumstances.”
Another issue that separated rich and poor nations in Lima was their stance on climate adaptation.
Many developing countries want adaptation policies to have equal status alongside efforts to cut emissions. But some developed countries want mitigation to remain the principal focus of any agreement.
Lima’s draft text leaves many options on the table: from committing countries to cooperating on adaptation through to setting an explicit adaptation goal. It does express that countries must treat adaptation in a “balanced manner” alongside other issues such as mitigation and technology-transfer, however.
Countries that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change want developed countries to demonstrate their commitment to climate adaptation in the Lima deal.
Climate adaptation has come under increased scrutiny this year as policymakers and scientists develop a deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change.
One of developing countries key complaints is that there isn’t a steady, reliable, flow of financing to help them implement low carbon policies and adapt to climate change. The Lima deal won’t do much to persuade them this situation will change.
Some countries have made additional pledges to the UN’s Green Climate Fund over the past two weeks, raising it above its $10 billion goal. But few believe this will be enough. One of Bangladesh’s diplomats called the donations “peanuts” compared to the trillions developed country governments are currently spending shoring up their economies.
In the early stages of the Lima conference, it was revealed that Japan used some climate finance to help countries build coal power plants. As it stands, this is technically an allowable use of climate finance
Developing countries want climate finance pledges to form part of countries’ formal plans to tackle climate change over the next five to 10 years, which they will submit by the end of March 2015, the Guardian reports. But many developed nations say it isn’t feasible to make commitments over such a long period of time.
Developed countries want poorer nations receiving the funds to agree to greater scrutiny of how they spend it. But developing country negotiators are holding out on making such promises until they’re sure more climate finance is forthcoming, RTCC says.
There’s also a problem with defining how countries can use climate finance. In the early stages of the Lima conference, it was revealed that Japan used some climate finance to help countries build coal power plants. As it stands, this is technically an allowable use of climate finance.
The Lima agreement leaves all options on the table for a 2015 deal.
Loss and damage
The most prominent question asked by developing countries at Lima was whether developed nations would provide compensation for economic losses suffered because of climate change – known as loss and damage. They want loss and damage to be included in the draft text as a separate item to climate adaptation.
The Lima draft text makes it clear that is a possibility. There is a separate section for loss and damage, but one of the options in that section is to have “no reference to loss and damage”. The adaptation section is also currently titled ‘adaptation and loss and damage’, suggesting the issue of compensation could yet be folded in.
The Like-Minded Developing Countries and Small Island Development States blocs were pushing for a reference to loss and damage to be included in the draft text, which could commit developed countries to picking up the bill if those countries were hit by extreme weather events. As they would likely be paying the most for the damage, the EU and US are against any clause that could make them liable.
Typhoon Hagupit’s looming presence near the Philippines in the early days of the negotiations may have focused negotiators minds on the issue.
Bangladesh told Inside Climate News that the loss and damage clause wasn’t a negotiating position for the blocs, it was a “right”. The blocs found it difficult to argue their corner, however, as many of the countries were excluded from the committee charged with dealing with loss and damage, RTCC reports.
Countries also disagreed over whether their official plans to cut emissions and tackle climate change, known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), should be formally scrutinised, and exactly what will comprise the plans.
Countries are due to submit their plans to the UNFCCC by the end of March 2015. Allowing countries to choose their own goals, and how to hit them, represents a move away from the centralised target-setting system the UN used for its current climate deal, the Kyoto protocol.
Such an approach is described a ‘buffet approach’ to cutting emissions, and is promoted by the US as it allows countries to retain control of their climate policies. The danger of the buffet approach is that all the country’s INDCs add up to something short of the action needed to stay within the limits of two degrees.
The EU is willing to agree to the INDC system if governments can scrutinise each country’s INDCs, and suggest how they may need to change to increase ambition. Other countries, such as China and India, are very much against such scrutiny, known in the process as ‘ex-ante review’.
Lima’s draft text doesn’t determine whether the INDCs will be subjected to official review. The UN will produce a report on the expected impact of countries’ contributions by November 2015, however, without the power to ask countries to change them.
Negotiators are also yet to hammer out the details of how often countries will be expected to submit INDCs. The EU wants it to be every 10 years so that the commitments are long-term, RTCC reports. The Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean bloc and many NGOs want the commitments to be renewed every five years, as this allows for more flexibility. Countries are also yet to agree whether commitments can be adjusted to become less, as well as more, ambitious. Lima’s draft text leaves both these options on the table.
The Lima agreement falls a long way short of resolving countries’ key disagreements ahead of next year’s Paris conference. But it is worth remembering that it was never expected to
There is also still some doubt over what will be contained in the INDCs.
The US is happy for developing countries to include some ‘conditional’ targets that will be met if developed countries agree to provide financing, for instance. But it will only support this if the same countries also make some unconditional commitments.That option is in Lima’s draft text, as is the option to have only conditional commitments.
Lima was high profile, but it is not countries’ only chance to lay the groundwork for a deal before the Paris meeting.
Negotiators are set to convene again after countries have submitted their INDCs at a meeting in Bonn in June. Climate change is also likely to appear on many international meetings’ agenda between now and next December, as the deadline for a new deal looms into view.
So in summary, the Lima agreement falls a long way short of resolving countries’ key disagreements ahead of next year’s Paris conference. But it is worth remembering that it was never expected to.
While the Lima talks have reduced the momentum provided by the US and China’s recent climate agreement, diplomats prevented the talks completely stalling. By formulating a draft text for a new global deal, and coming to an agreement that commits all countries to taking action on climate change, the international negotiations have taken a step forward, albeit a small hop rather than a giant leap.
This article was first published by The Carbon Brief. Republished with gratitude and permission under a Creative Commons licence.