What to expect of the UN climate change conference in Peru

Centre for Science and Environment’s Vijeta Rattani writes from the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru

By Vijeta Rattani
Published: Saturday 29 November 2014

Arnold Paul/Wikimedia Commons

Starting Monday, Lima in Peru will host the 20th CoP (Conference of Parties), where a new climate agreement is scheduled to be formulated and which will lead to the critical Paris 2015 summit. The CoP will end December 12.

There are huge expectations of the Peru summit. In broad terms, parties are required to negotiate a draft text of the new agreement. The new climate deal will replace the Kyoto Protocol. Parties must also come forward to ratify the “second commitment period” of the Kyoto Protocol, which is intended to raise the climate ambition before the new treaty comes into effect in 2020.

In anticipation of the Paris summit, it is expected that parties will announce their emission reduction targets, emission intensity targets or even targets covering specific sectors like energy and forestry.

Of significant developments is the recent US-China deal in which US announced 26 to 28 per cent economy-wide reductions in emissions against 2005 levels and China vowed to peak its emissions by 2030. Though it can be argued that this deal serves to have an equitable carbon share between US and China, it is by no means even close to what the US should be doing, considering that it is the biggest historical global polluter. The deal is, however, expected to boost other countries to come up with their announcements ahead of the Paris summit.

At the Warsaw summit in December 2013, parties agreed to “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)”. These contributions, driven by their domestic circumstances, will lead towards a low-carbon pathway to keep global temperature increases within the safe limit of 2°C. In Peru, parties are expected to come up with “upfront information”, including what would constitute contributions, sectors, elements covered, the methodology used and base year.

A principle-based reference framework mechanism to discuss INDCs for them to qualify as safe planetary limits should also find room for discussion to ensure equitable division of contributions among countries. Additionally, a new carbon market under the new climate agreement could also come up for discussion.

Till now, developed countries have been very reluctant about giving funds and grants to developing nations. The Green Climate Fund (GCF), constituted to help developing nations address climate change, aims to receive $100 billion in contributions by 2020. Currently, countries have pledged only $9.6 billion to the fund. Peru could witness more parties coming forward with significant contributions or enhancing their already pledged financial contributions.

Developed v developing debate

Meeting of expectations at the Peru summit is going to be a herculean task. Some basic obstacles, which have been characteristic of the climate negotiations for many years now, stand in the way.

The foremost among them is the so-called “firewall” between developed and developing nations. Developing nations like China and India, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the African group demand differentiation of countries into annexes, based on original principles of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Developed countries like the US and the EU group want dilution of this principle on the basis of current emission trends where developing nations pollute more than the developed ones.

Considering that western nations are responsible for the problem of climate change, the argument that the rich must reduce substantially so that developing countries can grow holds its ground. While developed countries have emphasised mitigation as the central element of the INDCs, developing countries focus more on elements of finance and adaptation. Developing nations want adaptation to be treated at par with mitigation, but developed nations insist that adaptation should be a focus area at the national and sub-national levels.

While it is true that differences between developed and developing countries are stark, an urgent push is needed to reach an equitable and ambitious climate agreement that can protect the planet from the catastrophic impacts of climate change. We are already running out of time. All countries must show a great degree of flexibility.

Developed countries, on their part, must lead the efforts to have a fair share in carbon space so that everyone may grow.

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