Fr. Seán McDonagh, SSC
At 2 am on Sunday, December 14, 2014, after 36 hours of continuous negotiations, delegates from 191 countries signed off on the agreement committing every country in the world to reducing the fossil fuel emissions that cause global warming. The headlines on La República on Monday, December 15th 2014, Acuerdo ‘tibio’ para salvar el planetá (A lukewarm agreement to save the planet) captured what most people felt about the document which is now called the Lima Call for Climate Action. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the Peruvian environment minister who brokered the deal said that “as a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties.” Non-government organizations were very critical of the text. According to Jagoda Munic, the chair of Friends of the Earth International, “the text is desperately lacking in ambition, leadership, justice and solidarity for the people worst hit by the climate crisis.”
Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland said that the Lima agreement had managed to keep the multilateral UN process alive, but did not “give confidence that the world is ready to adopt an equitable and ambitious, legally binding climate agreement in Paris next year”.
Because the Lima Conference failed to address many thorny issues in relation to climate change, there will be huge pressure on the French negotiating team to get the negotiations back on track if there is going to be an agreement in Paris in 2015. The Lima document broke with all previous COPs where the burden of reducing greenhouse gases was placed squarely on the shoulders of rich countries which historically have been emitting carbon dioxide since the beginning of the industrial revolution. In Lima poor countries felt that rich countries were attempting to move the burden of reducing carbon dioxide emissions on to their shoulders. Under the plan, countries are due to come forward by March 2015 with their proposed emissions reductions targets. The United Nations will then scrutinise the pledges to see whether taken together they are large enough to limit global warming to 2C rise. Given the voluntary nature of what are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), the possibility of this happening would be nothing short of miraculous. Furthermore, the Lima text no longer makes it mandatory for countries to provide detailed information about their prospect reductions targets.
Naturally, rich countries were pleased. The Guardian quoted Britain’s Energy and Climate Change secretary, Ed. Davey as saying, “I think for the first time ever the world can contemplate a global deal applicable to all and Lima has helped that process.”
Finance was also a problem in Lima. The Lima Call to Climate Action, “urges developed country Parties to provide and mobilize enhanced financial support to developing country Parties for ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions, especially to Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change; and recognizes complementary support by other Parties.” But the document does not offer any clearly defined pathway to achieve this goal.
For this reason, wealthy countries were accused of not living up to promises made to mobilize serious money to help poor countries fight climate change, The Green Climate Fund (GFC) has only raised $10 billion, when it is generally recognised that $100 per annum will be necessary in the period after 2020.
The Warsaw International Mechanism for ‘Loss and Damage’ survived in the agreed text despite the opposition of the US delegation. This was introduced at COP 19 in Warsaw in 2013 after news that Typhoon Haiyan had caused enormous damage in the Philippines, At least 7,000 people were killed or drowned and unbelievable damage was caused to property and infrastructure such as road, bridge and electrical power lines by what was considered the most powerful storm in history. There was very little agreement on the amounts of money needed for Adaptation to climate change. Adaptation is a central pillar in the UNFCCC process. Downplaying it is very worrying.
The agreement in Paris in 2015 will need to ensure that global temperature increase stays at below 2o C. in comparison to preindustrial levels. To do this it will be necessary to phase-out all greenhouse gases as early as possible in the second part of this century. To reduce vulnerability of the poor, and build resilience of communities to climate change impacts, through collective actions which must apply to all countries based on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Although a low-carbon and climate resilient economy is beneficial, poor countries will need support in order to be able to make the shift. The agreement must include a package of support which will involve finance, technology and capacity building which is reviewed every five years. Naturally, any agreement should have robust accountability and transparency so that governments, civil society and industry will be able to trust that the transition to a low-carbon economy is actually happening. There is a lot of work to do before Paris 2015,
Fr. Seán McDonagh, SSC