December 12, 2014 / 4:42 PM / 5 years ago

Countries brace for weak finale at Lima climate talks

LIMA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Countries faced stark choices on the final day of U.N. climate talks in Peru’s capital, with the prospect they could decide to make minimal pledges under a new global climate agreement due in a year’s time.

Peru's President Ollanta Humala delivers a speech during the High Level Segment of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP 20 in Lima December 11, 2014.REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

Lima is the last major conference before the world is meant to agree in late 2015 in Paris a deal to drive climate action beyond 2020.

Countries last year agreed to submit their pledges for climate action at least six months before the Paris conference, by June 2015 at the latest. The main aim of the Lima talks was to agree the scope for those pledges, and a process to review them. 

The talks kicked off on a positive note, after China and the United States last month made a joint declaration with concrete targets to address climate change.

They were further boosted after pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which will help pay for carbon emissions cuts and build resilience against extreme weather in the world’s poorest nations, topped $10 billion earlier this week.

The talks have since tripped on familiar fault lines between rich and developing nations, over how to share the responsibility for carbon emissions cuts, and the amount of climate finance developed countries should give in coming years.

Countries must now choose between three options for the most contentious items after the two co-leaders of the negotiations laid them out in a final draft decision late Thursday. They range from weak, to a middle ground, to ambitious.

It is important that governments in Lima support the third option, “if we want a successful outcome in Paris”, said Siddharth Pathak of Climate Action Network International.

“We’re in the end game now... it’s time for countries to start making choices in a way that builds on the momentum that came into the conference,” said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate programme at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think-tank.

“The text doesn’t reflect the real world where countries are putting more details on their plans. Countries need to jump over their shadows and put forward adequate information about their plans, and that’s not too much to ask,” she added.

ENOUGH INFORMATION?

There are four key contentious items: the broad scope of next year’s pledges, their level of detail, a formal process to assess the pledges in the second half of next year, and a process for increasing ambition before 2020.

The main remaining fights will include how far developed countries agree formally to mobilise more climate finance before and after 2020.

When it comes to assessing national contributions, the options in the draft text range from merely publishing them on a U.N. website, to a formal dialogue to compare them. The latter is seen as important because it would force countries to be more serious about their pledges in the first place, because they would then have to defend them.

On the detail contained in pledges, countries could choose between options ranging from next-to-zero detail, to a detailed checklist including their possible use of carbon markets.

“Which choices they make matters, to build confidence in the lead up to Paris, in a way which provides enough information that governments and the public understand what countries are committing to do,” said Morgan.

Some developing countries would also insist on a greater focus on “loss and damage”, which refers to impacts that cannot be adapted to, for example, from sea level rise or persistent droughts.

“Rich nations have been dragging their feet, but we can’t allow this essential element to slip off the table,” said Harjeet Singh, manager for resilience and climate change at ActionAid International.

Reporting by Gerard Wynn; additional reporting and editing by Megan Rowling

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