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Lima climate talks end with ‘compromise deal’, pledges to fix sticky points toward Paris 2015

by: Imelda Abano for InterAksyon.com

LIMA — The climate talks ended on Saturday evening after hours of negotiating marathon, with countries expressing mixed views of satisfaction as well as frustrations over the “weak” outline on the path to reaching a global climate change deal in Paris next year.

At the plenary, while bitterly divided government leaders from more than 190 nations expressed their dismay, they agreed to continue to engage in a collaborative way and build mutual trust especially on the issues surrounding finance, differentiation of responsibilities between rich and poor countries, compensating for loss and damage caused by climate change, as well as tackle issues on mitigation through reducing emissions.

In 2009, the climate talks in Copenhagen failed to reach a legally binding agreement. Ever since, climate conferences have been held annually in an attempt to hammer out a deal toward Paris 2015, which is hoped to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Vulnerable countries for instance, such as the Philippines, Cooks Islands, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, and other low-lying countries mostly affected by the devastating impacts of climate change, were disappointed in the absence of loss and damage in the negotiation text. Those countries, however, accepted the draft of the agreement in the hope that things can be worked out before the Paris climate deal next year.

Loss and damage pertains to those impacts of climate change which cannot be adapted to, and therefore result in economic losses.

“Loss and damage should be a stand-alone element in the Paris outcome. It also believes human rights should figure prominently into the agreement. We therefore, regret the absence of reference to loss and damage in the decision because extreme climate events hitting our country and others year after year, underscore the need for predictable mechanism for recovery and rehabilitation,” the Philippine delegation said.

“And human rights because we need inclusivity and ownership of communities of climate actions the world has to undertake, in the same action that strongly advocate for human security.”

‘Loss and damage is a red line’

Dean Tony La Vina of the Ateneo School of Governments, senior adviser and negotiator for the Philippines, explained that indeed the most contentious issues faced by countries during the negotiations are in relation to the elements of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” loss and damage, and the assessment of the “intended nationally determined contributions” in the Paris Agreement.

“The Philippines stands with other developing countries on “common but differentiated responsibilities” as our climate change act mandates that but we think it does not mean any country is excused from doing their part to address climate change according to their capacity,” La Vina said as the negotiations were going on.

He stressed that “loss and damage is a red line for us so we will fight hard to keep it in so that it will be institutionalized in the agreement. We support ex-ante assessments of contributions but it must be done in a practical way and respecting national sovereignty.”

Asked about the next steps for the Philippines after the Lima climate negotiations, La Vina said that like other countries, the Philippines needs to prepare its contributions to ensure that agreed deadlines are respected in order to reach a successful conclusion in Paris next year.

“We need to make sure we have a solid team in the year of negotiations ahead,” La Vina said. “Lima saw us successfully pivot in our alliances and in how we reframed climate justice as more of a human rights rather than a north-south issue. I hope we will be able to sustain our momentum and contribute to a good Paris agreement. Our country needs and deserves that.”

Earlier in her speech at the high-level segment of the negotiations, Climate Change Commission Secretary and head of the Philippines delegation Mary Ann Lucille Sering said countries need to provide “a clear, simple, but substantive text that is morally grounded, one that will elevate momentum toward Paris. A balanced, well-structured, and coherent draft text brings hope that finally the world did not just listen to the pains of nature but is finally acting to cure it.”

Sering said there is also a need to strengthen the Climate Vulnerable Forum, in which the Philippines leads 20 vulnerable countries, to push for more climate action.

“Through this forum, vulnerable countries will strengthen its strategies on how to best share information like center of excellence and expertise in climate change, and identifying potential resources for sharing information,” Sering said. “We hope that countries see the leadership of the Philippines through this forum, seeing us not only on how we are trying to prepare on climate impacts and disasters.”

United States Climate Change Envoy Todd Stern, on the other hand, warned delegates that the success of a Paris climate agreement is at stake as failing to produce decision in Lima will be a major breakdown for climate talks.

“The hourglass is running out. I want us not to lose sight of what is at stake, as the success of the Lima climate talks is at stake, the Paris deal is at stake, as well as the process under the United Nations is at stake as we approach Paris,” Stern said. “Let us focus now and let us not throw away what we have achieved.”

The US and other rich countries stand by their position that they commit to carbon cuts, but poor nations wanted more mitigation measures that include finance for adaptation as well as inclusion of the compensation for loss and damage due to climate-disaster events. The sticky issue also holds over the issue of monitoring the scale of those commitments.COP 20_fileimage-001

Re-labeling overseas aid budgets

Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said that after the Lima climate talks, all countries must continue to engage in a collaborative way with each other to build mutual confidence.

“Rich countries must accept the responsibilities that are associated with their greater wealth and historical contribution to the rise in greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. They must help in tackling the effects of climate change that are already with us. And they should also work to create and unlock much greater public and private investments in clean economic growth in the developing countries, and not just re-label overseas aid budgets,” Stern said in a statement. “There is great potential for sustainable and inclusive growth across the world. Investments in clean development hold the key to both managing the risks of climate change and overcoming poverty.”

Jennifer Morgan, who is the Global Director, Climate Program, World Resources Institute, on the other hand, said that while more hard work remains, negotiators found common ground on the most pressing issues. She added that this emerging agreement represents a new form of international cooperation.

“In the coming months, countries must propose their climate action plans and hammer out the details of the core agreement. Momentum has been growing for global climate action, with the US, China, and EU putting their emissions targets on the table early. Now others countries need to step up to the plate,” Morgan said.

In Lima, countries also decided in detail how they will present their national contributions by March 2015 or soon after.

“As contributions are put forward, peer pressure will grow for countries to be as transparent and ambitious as possible. World Resources Institute will conduct analysis of country action plans based on their level of transparency, ambition, and equity,” Morgan stressed.

Commitment to reduce emissions

For most countries, however, the most inspiring development in Lima was an outpouring of support for a long-term effort to reduce emissions. Over a hundred countries now advocate for a long-term mitigation goal. This would send a strong signal that the low-carbon economy is inevitable.

“Support grew for establishing regular cycles to review and strengthen countries’ actions to curb emissions, adapt to climate change and support low-carbon growth. These cycles of improvement are critical to ensure the Paris agreement drives climate action for not years but decades to come,” Morgan added.

Progress on the Green Climate Fund was a bright spot, with countries’ exceeding the $10 billion goal for 2014. These funds will jump start a transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. It will be important to identify additional sources of funding that are on par with the scale of the climate challenge.

Despite these climate talks and climate inaction, scientists and scientific reports have been issuing stark warnings that the global greenhouse gas emissions have kept rising, endangering the planet on track for more warming and climate-related disasters in the years to come.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), called on all countries “not to lose sight of the science” in tackling climate action.

“It is absolutely essential that we mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and the sooner we start doing that the better,” Pachauri said urging countries to shift to low-carbon economy through renewables.

Civil society groups angry

Civil society groups have also expressed their disappointments on the outcome of the “weak” Lima climate talks.

“Negotiators failed to build on the momentum coming into these talks. Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand climate action–millions more will join them in the year ahead. Politicians can either ride that wave, or be swept away by it,” said Jamie Henn, Strategy and Communications Director of 350.org.

With the impacts of climate change already being felt in vulnerable communities around the world, Henn said the need for immediate action could not be clearer, and yet rich countries are still dragging their feet on everything from finance to emissions reductions.

Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of Jubilee South Asia Pacific from the Philippines said that, “the concrete demand was to set out how we would increase emission reductions from now until 2020, and set long-term climate targets to make sure we limit temperature increase to below 1.5°C.”

“What has happened in Lima is that the world has said it wants to bury its head in the sand and not look at the weak and unjust 2020 climate targets again. Make no mistake, not revisiting our 2020 targets is to set us on track for 4C of warming and risk many more storms like that which hit our homes in the Philippines this week. Lima has failed the people of the world, Paris must not ignore the urgency of the crisis or its agreement will not be worth the paper it is written on.”

Mattias Söderberg, co-chair of the ACT Alliance Advisory Group on Climate Change Advocacy, said: “The Lima talks have been clouded by missed opportunities: a missed opportunity to build trust among parties, with now even more division along north south lines; missed opportunities on finance since developed countries were not willing to discuss pre or beyond 2020; and a missed opportunity around ambition, which simply fell off the radar completely.”

“We in the Philippines are dying because of climate change. For us the devastating effect of climate change is not in the distant future. We are dying now!” said Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.” As we speak, another storm will most likely hit the Philippines again. And many will die because of the lack of ambitious climate action.”

Arances said his group also demand that developing countries, including the Philippines, do its share based on “fair share of the carbon budget” to stabilize the climate. “It cannot follow the same destructive development path that developed countries have taken. The right to development is not a right to pollute and condemn its people.


Editor’s note: This article is reposted from InterAksyon.com, the portal of TV5. This article was first posted on December 15, 2014. 

About the featured image: The image is a cropped version of the image posted in the article http://salvemoshuayhuash.blogspot.com/2014/11/cop-20-y-el-tema-de-los-glaciares-en.html. 

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