Limping Home from Lima

Alden Meyer Comments on Weak Outcomes of Climate Talks in Peru

Published Dec 15, 2014

LIMA (December 14, 2014) – The U.N. climate talks in Lima, Peru wrapped up early Sunday morning, a day later than scheduled, with decisions that represent the bare minimum needed to move the process to Paris. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a far greater sense of urgency is needed to secure a comprehensive post-2020 climate agreement at next December’s summit in Paris.

“There were storm clouds on the horizon well before negotiators arrived in Lima,” said Alden Meyer, UCS director of strategy and policy. “There are deep and long-standing divisions on major issues including climate finance, which countries are more obligated to take action to reduce emissions, and whether to give greater priority to adaptation. These divisions nearly derailed the process in Lima; if they aren’t addressed, they threaten to block an agreement in Paris.”

Negotiators in Lima constructed a detailed menu of possible elements of the Paris agreement, intended to form the starting point when negotiations resume next February in Geneva. But they provided only minimal guidance on the content of countries’ post-2020 emissions reduction proposals, referred to as Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs). Additionally, the talks fell short on how to ensure clarity and understanding of the INDCs after they are submitted.

“While the Lima summit fell short of expectations, the pressure is still on countries to put forward their best emissions reduction offers early next year,” said Meyer. “The good news is that the world’s three largest emitters – China, Europe, and the U.S. – have already committed to do so, and others are expected to join them.”

Negotiators in Lima called for an analysis of the collective adequacy of the INDCs to meet the global temperature limitation goal agreed to by President Obama and other leaders five years ago in Copenhagen. However, they rejected proposals to facilitate clarity and understanding of individual countries’ INDC.  

“To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need a strong, science-based agreement that sets the world on a path to virtually eliminating heat-trapping emissions before the end of this century,” said Meyer. “The resistance by some countries to allowing scrutiny of their proposals is troubling.”

The Lima decision included modest steps to increase ambition between now and 2020, including by providing technical support to developing countries to accelerate deployment of renewable energy technologies and other solutions to climate change. Unfortunately, there was no real progress on how to scale up financial resources towards the $100 billion per year by 2020 goal pledged by the U.S. and other developed countries five years ago in Copenhagen.  

“Helping developing countries limit their carbon emissions and make their communities more resilient to climate impacts is a smart investment in our own environmental and economic future,” said Meyer. “By keeping their promises on climate finance, the U.S. and other developed countries will help build the trust and confidence needed to get a comprehensive climate deal in Paris.”

The Lima talks were held as it was reported that 2014 will go down as the warmest year in history and as a powerful typhoon hit the Philippines for the third year in a row.

“Climate change is barreling ahead, but too many leaders are acting like we have all the time in the world,” said Meyer. “They need to shift gears, actively engage with each other, and take the bold action needed to come to grips with the climate crisis.”