15 DEC 2014
Rough seas ahead for climate talks, Paris deal still on the horizon
Another year of increasingly extreme and destructive weather and new political momentum were not yet enough to boost the ambition of UN climate talks in Peru. The decisions made in Lima do not foreclose the possibility of an agreement in Paris, but do little to improve the odds of success.
‘Negotiators have managed to get the boat in the water from Lima’s shores without sinking, but choppy seas are ahead before they reach Paris’, said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International. ‘This outcome can only be read as a call to action for people around the world. Governments will not deliver the solutions we need unless more people stand up to make our voices heard. We must continue to build a stronger movement to counteract the narrow interests that are preventing action’.
The package, known as the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’ puts in place a draft of a Paris Agreement without narrowing down any of the difficult political issues that have plagued global efforts to address climate change for more than 20 years. The deal does not require that the initial pledges parties make in 2015 (INDCs) reflect their fair share, does not guarantee that these offers will use common or comprehensive information, or have any mechanism to review whether they will prevent catastrophic warming or not. Nothing was done to increase short term ambition, which scientists warn is necessary.
US$10 billion in pledges to the Green Climate Fund two weeks before the talks created space for negotiators to focus on how developed countries would scale up to meet their US$100 billion promise. But negotiators did little to move the ball forward on this issue. The text gives no assurances that developed countries are ready to deliver on their existing financial promises.
‘We will not get a deal in Paris without progress on finance and what Lima delivered is simply not enough’, said Byanyima. ‘Not only is the need immense, a balanced package cannot be produced unless finance is a strong component’.
None of the world’s largest emitters stepped up to the plate to show leadership to forge an agreement and build on the momentum of the first days. While the US and China arrived in Lima with the wind at their backs after concerted steps to build political will, they showed little willingness to compromise, throwing up road blocks on issues like climate finance and how to divide up the responsibility to act in the long term. India pushed against efforts to ensure 2015 pledges can be properly assessed. Following welcome commitments to the Green Climate Fund before Lima and its new emissions target, the EU chose to rest on its laurels. Australia attended the talks and that’s about the best thing you can say about their role in the process.
This contrasted with some Latin American countries that consistently showed a constructive attitude that went beyond expectations. For instance, Colombia and Peru, in spite of having many development challenges and little historical responsibility, chose to contribute US$6 million each to the Green Climate Fund. The Africa group made a last ditch effort to strengthen provisions in the text on finance, but their efforts could not restore the necessary ambition. Many fragile island nations and poor countries fought hard to make Loss and Damage – initiatives that protect communities that cannot adapt to the unavoidable impacts of the already changing climate – a central part of the Lima decision. But developed countries consistently blocked.
‘The rural women farmers I met this week and the tens of thousands of people I marched alongside here in Lima are all demanding action before it is too late’, said Byanyima. ‘Ordinary citizens and affected people are fed up with spineless politicians, bureaucrats and CEOs constantly making excuses for themselves’.
The outcome here does little to break the world from a path to 3 degrees warming or higher. This type of warming would threaten the lives of millions of people around the world, increase poverty and hunger, and thwart economic growth in its tracks. Fifty million people could be pushed into hunger in the coming years on the current trajectory.
‘We hoped for a course correction here in Lima, but negotiators were content to sail on into the storm’, said Byanyima. ‘2014 saw half a million people take to the streets to demand climate action followed by the largest ever climate march in Latin America this week. The outcome ensures even greater efforts are needed ahead of Paris. But even the best scenario in 2015 will require vigilance decades into the future. This week shows us that even if negotiators can successfully land the most ambitious deal currently on the table in Paris, our work will be far from over’.