Here's the Lowdown on the Lima Accord

by Rona Fried 

Now that the Climate Summit in Lima, Peru has ended, let’s take a moment to step back before we look at the results.

In 2009, the world was ready for a climate treaty and prepared to "seal the deal" in Copenhagen. It was the "moment" everyone had been waiting for, but at the last minute, conservative Heartland Institute (and others) successfully derailed it – thanks to the media frenzy surrounding "ClimateGate."

After hackers stole emails exchanged between climate scientists, Heartland pounced, taking bits and pieces out of context and  leading the world to believe their research findings were a scam, even a conspiracy.

While that same approach failed in Durban, by 2011, Democrats had lost their majority in the US Congress and our tune changed to "let’s make this voluntary," even as China proposed binding commitments! 

Since then, the world has been inching forward again, trying to regain the trust that existed heading into Copenhagen. That’s when the Green Climate Fund first formed, settling differences among rich and poor nations.   

Lima Accord

The Climate Summit ended on Friday, but negotiators continued working and at 2AM Sunday morning a draft treaty for post-2020 was revealed and signed by 195 countries – meeting the goal of the Lima Summit. The most important elements are:

  • For the first time, all countries agreed to announce  climate targets – and programs to reach them – by March 31. Their commitments will be published on the UN website for the world to see and will be the basis for the 2015 Paris Treaty.
  • By May, a draft of a legally binding international agreement will have been circulated and commented on – it will be based on staying below the 2°C threshold. 
  • By November 1, the secretariat of the UN Climate Change Convention will have assessed if country commitments are enough to meet the 2°C threshold. If not, they will announce how far they are from the target.
  • In December, the dramatic final negotiation – and hopefully signing – takes places in Paris, France.

The Lima Ministerial Declaration on Education and Awareness calls on governments to put climate change into school curricula and climate awareness into national development plans. 

"Here’s the good news from the Lima talks: countries around the world now fully understand that early next year they must commit to ambitious reductions in climate pollution and bold measures to slow global warming," explains Jake Schmidt of Natural Resources Defense Council. "Most key countries are laying the groundwork at home for more aggressive commitments to cut their carbon pollution. There is no question about this point anymore."

Climate Change Top Countries

Zero Emissions by 2050

Perhaps most importantly, for the first time a "zero emissions" goal by 2050 gained traction, with over 100 countries adopting the target.

Besides the obvious significance of this, accepting the idea of ending fossil fuel use strengthens arguments for divesting and frames the industry as a risky investment. If zero emissions are the goal, the world’s biggest coal mine in Australia and the Keystone pipeline in the US make no sense.

But the same divisions are still there. Developing countries insist rich countries aren’t doing enough to resolve the problem they caused and are looking to developing nations too much. They still want that $100 billion a year (by 2020), promised for the Green Climate Fund, and they want to use it for adaptation as well as mitigation. Rich countries say that countries like China, Brazil and India are industrializing so rapidly that they too must lower emissions – or the world will overheat regardless of what advanced countries do. 

Where the Lima Agreement Falls Short

  • Countries agreed new targets should go further than current ones, but there is no requirement for that. Plans for implementing targets "may include" details such as target years, and how it is "fair and ambitious."
  • If they don’t submit their pledges by March 31, countries will have until June – but even that isn’t required.
  • After China and other countries refused to submit plans with standardized measurements that can be compared to that of other countries, it was omitted.
  • Green Climate Fund: advanced countries are "urged," but not required to contribute to the fund, and are "invited" to include an adaptation component. 
  • what happens before 2020?

In other words, there are strong goals but no one is required to meet them! The entire deal relies on peer pressure, because there was no other way every country would sign onto the deal, including the US and China. 

They reached agreement only because it leaves countries to develop plans and programs based on their own domestic policies and economies – a bottom-up approach rather than top-down mandates.

Researchers and universities say they will compare pledges using apples-to-apples assessments. They will be publicized, hoping that will "shame" countries into taking stronger action.

Most issues will have to be worked out next year, such as whether the final treaty will have legal weight and how $100 billion a year will be reached for the Green Climate Fund.

Although the draft expresses "grave concern" about the gap between targets and 2°C, countries aren’t required to make pledges that would close the gap.

"The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed," says Sam Smith, who heads climate policy for World Wildlife Fund. "Governments crucially failed to agree on specific plans to cut emissions before 2020…The science is clear that delaying action until 2020 will make it near-impossible to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, yet political expediency won over scientific urgency."

Negotiators have managed to get the boat in the water from Lima’s shores without sinking, but choppy seas are ahead before they reach Paris," says Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. "This outcome can only be read as a call to action for people around the world. Governments will not deliver the solutions we need unless more people stand up to make our voices heard."

(Visited 3,965 times, 3 visits today)

Comments on “Here's the Lowdown on the Lima Accord”

  1. Minimize

    It’s pretty obvious that business owners and individuals have to lead the charge. Take control of our own emissions and show by our action, as a message to government, action is what we want.

  2. Das

    “Heartland stole emails exchanged between climate scientists” I’ve never heard this before, where did you get this info? If true it’s a huge story, if not, can anyone trust YOU?

  3. DAS

    Rona, I looked it up and found no references to Heartland as the ones that stole them. And in Wikipedia it says “On 18 July 2012, the Norfolk police finally decided to close its investigation because they did not have a “realistic prospect of identifying the offender or offenders and launching criminal proceedings within the time constraints imposed by law”.

  4. Rona Fried

    Das, I looked it up again. It looks like unidentified hackers stole the emails, but Heartland took it from there, turning it into the media frenzy that followed.


Post Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *