The climate talks have opened in Peru, their aim is to lay the foundation for an agreement in Paris and the stakes could not be higher. 195 countries are meeting to lay the groundwork for a new global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The stakes are tropospheric, and far clearer now than when Kyoto was negotiated. High tide floods are becoming common across the coastal U.S. Greenhouse gases are making seas hotter and more acidic. Climate change is clearly amping heat waves, which are fueling wildfires. Global temperatures have risen 1.5°F since the Industrial Revolution, pushing sea levels and storm surges up an average of 8 inches. Greenhouse gas levels are rising now faster than ever.
Whilst everybody agrees that they want a deal, the devil, in this case is very much in the detail. This article explores some of the sticking points around COP20/21
The 196 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have set an outside target of limiting global warming to 2°C over pre-industrial levels. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and other climate-vulnerable countries want a tougher 1.5°C goal.
Should the pact be a “treaty” to be ratified by national parliaments, a slightly less formal “protocol” or some other form of agreement? And to what degree will it be binding under international law? These questions, crucial and explosive, are likely to be decided in the final hours in Paris, say insiders.
The deal is meant, for the first time, to bind all countries to a common climate text, with nations making pledges to curb emissions of Earth-warming greenhouse gases. Developing countries point to the principle of “differentiation” and want rich economies, who have polluted more for longer, to shoulder a bigger burden for addressing the problem. Wealthy countries, in turn, point to the rise of China and India as massive emitters of carbon from fossil fuel driving their growth, and insist on equal treatment for all. Poorer economies fear the talks are too focused on emissions curbs, known in climate jargon as “mitigation”.
They want the agreement to spell out financing for their own mitigation plans, but also help for adaptation, technology transfers, and compensation for climate damage. Not yet settled is the very wording of the pact – should the targets be called “commitments” or “contributions”?
Countries are being asked to submit their emissions pledges (“intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs) by the first quarter of 2015. In Lima, negotiators will be tasked with agreeing on the type of information the INDCs must contain, and whether they will be housed in an annex or attachment to the main accord or in less formal “national schedules”. Before they become formal, will the pledges be assessed to determine whether they are sufficient, combined, to meet the warming target?
And if they are found lacking, will parties reconsider their commitments voluntarily or would there would be a “top-down” adjustment based on a global carbon budget (the total amount of fossil fuel the world has left to burn without exceeding the warming limit)?
Countries also disagree on whether the pledges should be for five- or 10-year cycles, and how frequently they should be reconsidered, if at all.
Follow up and compliance
Reviewing and disciplining countries that fail to live up to their commitments is another thorny issue. Will there be an international review of countries’ performance, a compliance mechanism or committee, or none?
Despite the failures of the carbon market to date ( it has not reduced emissions or prevented environmental degradation) some countries seem determined to keep trying. A new carbon market that will spur emerging nations to cut emissions is the key element of next year’s planned global climate accord. Amber Rudd U.K. official said, “winning United Nations support for a market that would give credits for emission reductions would be the most important part of any international agreement,”
But as Oscar Reyes puts it in his briefing for Carbon trade watch– “Try again, fail again, fail better.”
There is significant opposition to schemes such carbon trading at REDD+ from a wide range of campaign groups as well as Latin American countries such as, Bolivia Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua that have a record of rejecting market-based approaches to cutting emissions. Evo Morales blames capitalism squarely for climate change: “The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets. We denounce those markets and the countries which [promote them]. It’s time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated.”
The people’s summit being is being held in Lima at the same time and is calling for an ambitious, fair, equitable, and binding climate agreement. That is able, in record time, to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by no less than 50% based on the principles of equity and common and includes climate justice for the most vulnerable. If no such agreement is reached, the life of future generations is at risk. At the summit issues such as Payment for eco system services, Green capitalism ,REDD+ will be debated and alternatives proposed that are not based in perpetuating neo liberal market economies.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-A breakthrough in Lima is vital if we to get see a global agreement in 2015, the agreement of China and the US to reduce emissions has been seen as a major boost for the climate talks. In order to reduce emissions to net zero by 2070 and earlier in developed countries there is no time to waste. Government processes are needed to create change but equally importantly is a global, popular, mass movement for climate change that builds and demonstrates the world we want to see. From the massive protests world wide in September 2014 to the mobilisations already going on ahead of Paris 2015 we can only achieve this enormous task by working together with a renewed focus and unified voice- presenting a powerful force for change.