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UN climate talks in Lima – more than hot air?

Written by Gregor Erbach

The 20th UN climate change conference, which starts today (1 December) in Lima, will focus on preparing a new global climate agreement, applicable to all countries. It is to be adopted a year later at the following conference in Paris.

Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, represents the EU in Lima, and Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT), Chair of the Environment Committee, leads the European Parliament’s delegation. The EU aims for an agreement ambitious enough to keep global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. In its resolution of 26 November 2014, the European Parliament supports the EU’s ambition, and calls for stepping up climate finance and helping developing countries cope with climate change.

Why a new agreement?

Despite 20 years of UN climate diplomacy, global emissions of greenhouse gases still keep on growing. The Kyoto protocol, adopted in 1997, commits only some developed countries and affects only a small part of global emissions. It gives full freedom to developing nations, whose economies and emissions are growing rapidly. The UN climate conferences in the last years brought to light serious disagreements between different groups of countries which have so far made it impossible to come to a new agreement.

Encouraging developments

COP20 logo

Official logo of the COP20, UN Climate Change Conference in Lima

Yet, the last couple of months have brought positive news:

  • World leaders met for a climate summit in New York in September 2014, presented visions for future climate action and reaffirmed the importance of the Lima conference in shaping a new climate agreement.
  • In October, the European Council committed to a 40% emissions reduction by 2030, as well as new targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
  • On 12 November the US and China – the world’s largest emitters – agreed that China should achieve a peaking of CO2 emissions by 2030 and boost renewable energy sources, while the US aims to reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
  • On 20 November, thirty countries pledged US$9.3 billion to the Green Climate Fund that will help developing countries cut emissions and prepare for global warming.

There is no Paris without Lima

The new agreement to be discussed in Lima will differ from previous agreements like the Kyoto protocol, which fixed national emissions targets. Taking more of a bottom-up approach, it will be based on Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which can include emissions targets, policies and projects. The talks in Lima are critical for preparing the draft negotiating text of the new agreement, clarifying the nature of INDCs (what information to include, and how to report and verify their achievement), and discussing further elements such as climate finance, adaptation and support for developing countries. Further progress in the 12 months before the Paris conference will depend on what the negotiators in Lima can achieve in the next 12 days.

Learn more about the Lima conference in our publication 20th UN Climate Change Conference in Lima ‘at a glance’. For more details on the EU’s climate and energy policies, check out our sections on climate and energy.

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