A road to success from Lima to Paris
Climate change talks in December 2014 in Lima, Peru (COP 20) set high expectations for a pathway to success in 2015. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing world leaders today. Necessitating them to act now to address climate change in a meaningful and unified manner, as the effects remain a significant threat to the stability of our global community.
But what has Lima got to do with it all? Lima represents the first successful effort at gaining global momentum towards reversing climate change policies across both developing and developed nations.
This international effort has paved the way for governments to craft a clear path towards a global climate deal. As a result of the COP 20, every nation must now commit to cutting its planet-warming fossil fuel emissions. This is unprecedented. If governments nationwide fail to develop and implement sound policies for addressing climate change, future generations will face dire consequences. The world will have used up the carbon budget within which the 2°C goal is attainable by 2035. According to the United Nations, half of the city of Jakarta risks being below sea level by 2030 and the low-lying islands of Kribati in the South Pacific may become the new Atlantis if the effects are not being addressed.
At the COP 20, a tour de force on carbon negotiations has been reached with a joint climate announcement between the world’s two largest polluters.
President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a historic deal by jointly announcing the United States’ and China’s respective goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The US will reduce its carbon emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The world viewed the US efforts to promote climate change with skepticism but President Obama was steadfast. Despite opposition from the US Senate, $3 billion were contributed to the UN linked Green Climate Fund. The United States would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The US is on it’s way to meeting that goal while growing the economy and masking a coherent long term national energy policy.
It is imperative for China to pursue peak carbon by 2030. The country had been leading opposition to commitments for emission cuts and gaining their buy in was previously unthinkable. Today’s agreement sets a goal of achieving a 20 percent share of non-fossil energy in total primary energy by 2030. The renewable energy roadmap report from IRENA and the China Renewable Energy Centre shows that China can meet and exceed that goal. It can increase its renewable share of energy from 13 to 26 percent by 2030, and the share of renewables in the power sector to 40 percent by 2030. This means China will need to generate between 800 and 1,000 Gigawatts of hydro, nuclear, solar or wind power. Essentially, China intends to take notable action on short notice.
In Lima, the presidents of Peru, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia announced a new “Pacific Alliance”, jointly pledging to work together “with one voice”.
With 40% of Latin America’s GDP, great diversity, and the fastest growth rates in the region, the new alliance was well placed to showcase climate-change solutions. Chile, which relies heavily on coal and other fossil fuels, has made great strides in addressing climate change by becoming the first South American country to tax carbon (at US$ 5 per ton). Mexico has also implemented a modest carbon tax on the sale of fossil fuels but allows companies to offset their bills with carbon credits. Earlier, Chile and Peru signed a new environmental co-operation agreement and are well on their way to setting up an effective system to manage their natural resources. And yes, the solutions are widely regarded as the penultimate step towards a new international climate treaty.
Australia also made strides and conceded to international pressure by pledging AUS 200 million to the Green Climate Fund. Australia’s contribution in combination with pledges from Belgium and Lichtenstein pushed the Green Climate Fund beyond its goal of US $10 billion. Other contributors to the fund include landlocked Austria with a $25 million pledge and Sweden, which pitched in a staggering $550 million. Even crisis hit Spain and Mongolia contributed to the deal.
There remains a clear and urgent need for scaling-up climate financing and innovation in environmentally sound technologies. Developing countries need to abandon policies that contribute to the degradation of our climate and adopt standards to promote effective climate change and financing. Lima has focused on how to put the right economic motor into place. The COP 20 represents a critical step in the right direction as it encourages developing countries to develop long-term strategies that address the effects of climate change and represent a clear commitment to improving conditions that contribute to climate change….
The COP 20 also prods states to do as much as possible through multilateral rules on transparency and accountability. This is a pivotal approach that shall maintain a concession to political and diplomatic perceptions for the road to the COP 21 in Paris.
What remains to be seen is whether parties will be able to agree on rules that sufficiently allow national flexibility but still promote stronger ambition. Only New York’s summer pit-stop negotiation and Paris COP winter will prove if that is the case….