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More reactions to COP20 and Lima’s “Roadmap to global burning”

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lima_cop20_1Not much happened in Lima during this year’s UN climate negotiations. The fact that only a “Call for Climate Action” came out of Lima amounts to an admission that despite nearly 20 years these annual UN climate meetings, nothing has been agreed that will come close to addressing climate change.

Shortly after the meeting in Lima finished, REDD-Monitor did a post featuring round-up of some of the reactions to the two weeks of meetings. The reactions were largely critical.

I’ve been bookmarking reactions to Lima on delicious.com, available here. This post features some of the more interesting reactions.

We’ll start with the optimists, move on to the pessimists, and end with a possible solution.

Will Ashley-Cantello, the Chief Adviser on Forests for WWF-UK, takes a look at what happened in Lima on forests and climate change on the WWF UK blog. Having acknowledged that there was “not much progress” in the negotiations in general, Ashley-Cantello looks at REDD, where three items were on the agenda: Safeguards information systems; non-carbon benefits; and Bolivia’s proposal for a combined mitigation-adaptation mechanism for REDD.

“Frustratingly, no decision or conclusion was reached on any,” Ashley-Cantello notes.

An optimist would say… that because the negotiations have already delivered the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ – a set of seven decisions creating ‘the rules of the game’ – the lack of new negotiated agreements is a symptom of the new phase of REDD+: focused on real world action. And that the New York Declaration on Forests used up the limited political capital available in securing its goal and that, in time, Governments will be prepared to offer more action, funding, policy changes or just compromise.
 
A pessimist would say… that as we close in on the Paris milestone, government negotiators are toughening up. That agreement will be harder to reach than ever. And that without a credible global deal on greenhouse gas reductions the carpet would be pulled from under REDD+.
 
I tend to be an optimist. But one thing is for sure, the parties at Lima let the world down with a lack of commitment on pre-2020 action. The Paris agreement will only come into force in 2020 but the world needs to peak total emissions by the end of the decade to have a decent chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. Tackling deforestation remains one of the most effective and affordable strategies for pre-2020 action, and can deliver many other non-carbon benefits to boot.

Kevin Grandia, former editor of DeSmogBlog, is also optimistic. He gives five reasons to be hopeful about what came out of Lima:

1) People Marching in Street
Marching in New York with 400,000 of your closest friends is one thing, but marching in the streets of Lima under the heavy eye of armed military really is next-level activism….
 
2) No More Carbon After 2050
This is a biggie, and as of Sunday when the Lima COP concluded, the “Elements for a draft negotiating text” still contains one line that should give everyone a feeling of hope that the world will come together in Paris and we will see a meaningful agreement. The line reads simply that the world will aim for “zero net emissions by 2050.”…
 
3) Obama’s $3 Billion Dollar Move
Just prior to the Lima climate talks, President Obama announced that the United States would pony up $3 billion towards the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – this fund is part of the UN climate negotiations and its purpose is to help developing nations move to a renewable energy economy, instead of one powered by coal and oil….
 
4) Tuning Out the Deniers
Climate deniers have long tried to create a circus sideshow at UN climate events. This year, when the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) – a well-oiled, highly funded fossil fuel stink tank – showed up, barely anyone engaged….
 
5) Divestment Movement Has Fossil Fuel Companies Running Scared
Even though fossil fuel companies are publicly dissing divestment with a dismissive wave of the hand, behind closed doors the growing movement seems to be making them nervous….

Lisa Friedman, writing for Climate Wire, gives an overview of some of the difficulties that negotiators ran into in Lima, including common but differentiated responsibilities – the issue that the US wishes would just go away:

“Differentiation. Common but differentiated responsibilities. This is the core political thing,” Claudia Salerno, lead negotiator for Venezuela, the country that led the charge against changing the current Kyoto system, said when asked what was at stake.
 
Invoking the U.N. principle that for many has come to mean that the categories of doers and those who may do will stay locked in place, Salerno said countries for too long have avoided talking frankly about the issue. It came to a head Saturday morning in an explosive plenary session where visions of colonization and other long-standing grievances were summoned up against the West.
 
“If we are ready to do so, why not start having at least face-to-face conversations on the issues? The momentum for having the discussion, it hit Lima and surprised everybody,” Salerno said. “It seemed like the elephant in the room, and everybody pointed it out this morning. Maybe we need to talk about it.”

There was some good news in Lima. As Eric J. Lyman reported on Bloomberg’s Climate Blog, the Clean Development Mechanism was sidelined in Lima, and may not appear in the Paris agreement. “If it continues to be a market for offsets then why save it?”, Kate Dooley, an independent climate policy consultant, is quoted as saying in Lyman’s article.

The price of the certified emission reduction units fell from a high of slightly more than $20 a ton in 2008 to a historical low of 31 cents four years later. Prices remain less than $1 per ton now.
 
“The prices are so low that most entities don’t want to sell them,” Hugh Sealy, president of the CDM Executive Board, said during a briefing at the Lima climate change conference….
 
Delegates involved in the negotiation of the 2015 agreement have told Bloomberg BNA that while the value of market mechanisms has been debated, there seems to be only limited interest in having the CDM as a tool for the Paris treaty.
 
“I would think it’s unlikely that the CDM would be included as is,” a senior EU negotiator who asked not to be further identified told Bloomberg BNA. “Elements of the CDM are still valuable and could be saved, but it’s very likely the CDM won’t be called the CDM by the time next year’s agreement goes into effect in 2020.”

Lima produced “A roadmap to global burning“, writes Pablo Solón, the director of Focus on the Global South:

The emissions gap for this decade was not reduced at all during COP20 (the 20th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru. This makes it impossible to catch up with a 2º C pathway in the next decade, since, according to reports from sources like UNEP’s Gap Report and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the global peak year should happen before 2020. This situation is even worse because China announced in its agreement with the United States that it will only reach peak emissions by 2030.
 
The Lima text prefigures the outcome of the Paris agreement on the basis of the same laissez-faire logic of “do what you want” when it comes to emission cuts established by the Cancun Agreement. The Paris agreement will replace the term “pledges” with “contributions” for emission cuts in the post-2020 period and continue with the same logic.

My favourite analysis of the Lima climate talks comes from Oscar Reyes at the Institute for Policy Studies. I particularly like the headline: “At the Lima Climate Talks, It Was Groundhog Day All Over Again”.

Reyes inadvertently recycles a headline that I wrote in 2010, shortly before the Cancun talks: “It’s Groundhog Day, again. This time in Cancun…”.

“The very fact that I’m able to reuse that headline kind of proves your point, and mine,” Reyes told me.

The Lima conference, then, postponed most of the key fights for three rounds of talks in 2015, culminating in December with a conference in Paris that is intended to seal a new international climate deal.
 
One month in advance of that, the UN will release an analysis of the “aggregate effect” of countries’ plans, including pledges to cut their carbon emissions. But there will be no common means for reporting on reductions, and there will be no formal review in advance of Paris to ensure that individual countries take on their fair share of the burden.
 
There is no resolution, either, on whether countries’ pledges will be legally binding.
 
The risks of this type of voluntary, anything-goes stance were revealed by last month’s U.S.-China climate accord. Though it was widely hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough, it fell a long way short of the emissions cuts that climate scientists say are needed, especially when equity between nations and the U.S. role in outsourcing its emissions to other countries are taken into account.
 
Based on current projections, including plans that the United States, China, and the EU have already announced, the world is heading towards a temperature increase of 4 degrees Celsius — twice the increase that negotiators initially agreed to prevent — which would have a catastrophic impact in terms of floods, droughts, sea level rises, and other extreme weather. That directly contradicts the goal of preventing dangerous climate change, which all 194 countries present in Lima agreed to when they signed onto the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

We’ll end with a possible way out of this mess, proposed by Assaad W. Razzouk, the Chief Executive Officer of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, a clean energy company with its headquarters in Singapore. While I disagree with Sindicatum’s promotion of carbon offsets, I think Razzouk’s analysis of Lima is spot on, as his proposed solution:

The annual UN Climate Talks ended on Sunday in Lima, Peru. In case you were wondering, nothing happened.
 
In fact, possibly worse than nothing happened. Instead of being on track to sign, in December 2015 in Paris, a binding agreement to cut harmful emissions backed by all nations, we are forcefully sliding towards an agreement for each nation to do what it wants, including nothing….
 
Two consequences are clear, as they have been for some time.
 

  • First, emissions will continue to rise as the rot from a failed UN process spreads to every corner of the world.
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  • Second, as I argued previously, instead of wasting resources on a failed UN process, we should target the 90 companies which are responsible for two-thirds of the harmful emissions generated since the industrial age began. Eighty percent of their reserves need to be locked away underground to avoid a catastrophe.

 
This tiny number of large companies, lobbying to prevent action on climate change, are at the heart of our current carbon-intensive model. They know that their business model is not under threat from the UN climate talks.

 

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