Christopher Columbus set out in search of ‘East India’ from Europe, crossed Atlantic to arrive at the wrong place in Americas and then returned to Europe. Columbus never admitted that he went to wrong destination. Instead, he called where he reached as land of “Indians”.Warsaw to Lima to Paris! That’s the route of the annual meetings of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 2013. To me these meetings are historic in more sense than one. The climate negotiators from 196 countries and member States of United Nations continue to declare after each of these annual meetings that they have reached their destination and achieved the objectives of UNFCCC when in reality, they are always far from it.
UNFCCC has now achieved a dubious distinction of longest negotiated Multilateral Environmental Treaty in human history that is yet to achieve what it set out to achieve. There is also ‘ Columbian Risk’ that continuation of negotiations itself is likely to be called as the objective of the annual meetings!
Let us review what was the agreed agenda before setting out for Lima and what was achieved, and what is planned to be achieved in return journey to Paris.
First, there was urgent need to comprehend the draft of negotiating text of the 2015-Protocol or Agreement to be adopted by the Member States in Paris. This was must because the extended term of the Kyoto Protocol would end on 31 Dec 2015, and the new treaty would commence on 1 Jan 2016 and would enter into force in 2020.
Second, requirements for the way in which all Parties are to present, early in 2015, their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to the new Treaty. These contributions will express each Party’s intended emissions reduction efforts in transparent, quantifiable and comparable framework.
Third, Lima meeting was also to decide or provide for an international process to consider and analyze the adequacy and ambition of INDCs before meeting in Paris. That process should aim to ensure that finalized emissions reductions commitments in the 2015 treaty are collectively sufficient to keep global average temperature increase below 2°C, keeping Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBRD) as founding principle of actions on emission reductions.
Fourth, to make progress on enhancing mitigation targets (called, in new jargon of UNFCCC, as ‘ambition’) before 2020 keeping in mind that there are 5 long but critical years from now, to the time when new treaty would enter into force so we remain on track to achieve the “below 2?C” objective.
Fifth, recognizing that the impacts of climate change are already being felt world-wide and that the developing countries (particularly least developed poor countries) have the weak capacity to adapt to the extreme impacts, and further that developing countries would need commitment from the developed countries for financial assistance for the mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Such commitment has already being provided by the developed countries starting from 2010 till 2020, i.e. USD 10 billion annually for 2010 to 2012 and then increasing to USD 100 billion till 2020. There is need now to renew the commitment by the developed countries for the continued long-term finances for the developing countries.
What was the Key outcome of Lima?
After two weeks of negotiations, burning diesel for electricity generation due to inadequate and irregular supply of electricity for the meeting premises in Lima, and emitting carbon dioxide (due to travel and other uses of fossil fuel) more than annual emissions of smaller countries like Fiji and Malawi, the outcome was as weak in details as maps and plans of Columbus who set out in 1450s to explore ‘East India”.
- All countries were finally asked submit domestic policy plans, known as “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” or INDCs, to the United Nations by an informal deadline of 31 March 2015, as the core foundation of a Paris deal by end of 2015. INDCs will be published on the website of the UN climate change secretariat, which will prepare by 1 November 2015 a report of the overall climate effect of all the INDCs in slowing warming.
- The outcome is significant as all nations are now required to combat warming, blurring a distinction in a 1992 UNFCCC that split the world into two camps of rich and poor – under which the rich had to lead the way. Many emerging economies, such as India, insisted on that continued split. But the United States and other rich nations said the world had changed and that developing countries also had to curb their rising emissions.
- For the first time levels of transparency and confidence- building were strengthened as several industrialized countries submitted themselves to questioning about their emissions targets under a new process called a ‘Multilateral Assessment’.
- Pledges were made by both developed and developing countries prior to and during the Lima meeting that enriched new Green Climate Fund (GCF) past an $10 billion target in 2014, but it is fogged in mystery what happened to the initial pledges of ‘USD 10 billion annually between 2010 to 2012’.
- The Lima Ministerial Declaration on Education and Awareness-raising calls on governments to put climate change into school curricula and climate awareness into national development plans.
- Providing technology to developing countries –The Lima meeting sent an important signal that the transfer of climate technologies with the assistance of the UN and other international agencies is picking up speed though activities of The Climate Technology Centre and Network
- The UNFCCC’s Technology Mechanism was further strengthened through the consideration of a link to the Green Climate Fund and the UNFCCC Finance mechanism.
- Lima Work Programme on Gender to advance gender balance and to promote gender sensitivity by engaging women in developing and implementing climate policy was announced.
Lima-Paris Action Agenda
- The governments of Peru and France launched a Lima-Paris Action Agenda to catalyze action on climate change, to further increase ambition before 2020 and support the 2015 agreement. The plan builds on the UN Climate Summit in September 2014, to galvanize national, city and private sector action.
Exploration of Christopher Columbus, though directed at wrong place did have revolutionary impacts on the world history and its development. It is hoped that Lima to Paris expedition, though has started with lack clarity on details, it is likely to inspire civil society, private sector and governments to address global warming as matter of urgency. Already the European Council agreed on the 2030 target of 40% greenhouse gas reductions. This puts EU ahead of the curve and means we will be in a position to come forward with our INDC by the first quarter of 2015.
China and USA, two largest emitting countries in the world, agreed in joint statement to take initiatives to curb the emissions with bold plans. India beaming with new enthusiasm under Prime Minister Modi’s government has initiated ‘ convenient actions’ to address climate change-an inconvenient truth. The fast-actions, courageous pledges have been made at city levels-New York city mayor announced that the city’s emission would be 80% cut by 20150
While the issues like the way of application of CBRD in the treaty, realization of financing to the developing countries and above all the question if the INDCs at all add up to the cut in global emissions needed for keeping rise in temperature to 2 deg cent will be the focus of the noisy debate, the mute question would be : if the Paris treaty will be Protocol with legally binding targets or just a an agreement with the emission with domestic legal force. END
By Rajendra Shende, IIT Alumni, Chairman TERRE, former Director UNEP