Pivotal Climate Summit Begins in Lima, Peru

The countdown to an international climate treaty starts today with the opening of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 20) in Lima, Peru.

The goal is to end the meeting with a Draft Treaty that can be finalized next year in Paris. Talks begin today and run through December 12 among representatives from 195 countries. 

So, this is it! And there’s very cautious optimism that a treaty will be achieved this time.

Diplomats say Lima is "the best chance in a generation of striking a deal on global warming" reports The Guardian, viewing the US/ China agreement as the key breakthrough.

"I think it will give momentum to the negotiations and spur countries to come forward with their own targets," says Todd Stern, US Climate Envoy. The US commitment is "quite ambitious and something we can execute based on the authorities we have." 

Also a positive sign are recent contributions to the Green Climate Fund, which almost hit the goal of $10 billion last month in Germany.

"Things feel different than they did six months ago and one year ago, says Leo Hickman, chief advisor on climate change for World Wildlife Fund. 

Climate Summit Peru

Key Sticking Points That Must Be Worked Out

1. Most importantly, will country commitments be legally binding or not? 

The EU will argue strongly for a legally binding treaty, but that’s a real problem for the US, where there’s no hope of passage by a Republican majority in Congress.

Instead, the US wants individual countries to go at the pace and scale they feel comfortable with, even if that allows global temperatures to exceed 2°C. All countries would be required to announce climate targets, expected early next year.

2. The next question is, will there be a mechanism to make sure countries achieve their targets? The EU will also advocate strongly for monitoring, reporting and verifying. 

3. And what about important outlier countries? Tar sands have a grip on Canada, coal in Australia and India, and what can be expected from Russia and Brazil, for example?

Other issues Greenpeace raises:

  • how do the hodgepodge of country commitments add up? Do they collectively keep the world from exceeding 2°C  of warming, or how far off are we?
  • Before the Paris summit in December 2015, it must be clear which countries are and aren’t doing their fair share, and how the gap can be filled.
  • besides making aggressive targets, there need to be interim milestones every 5 years, with "ratcheting-up mechanisms" that prevent countries from slipping back on their pledges.
  • The draft should call for 100% renewables and phasing out fossil fuels by 2050, when we will reach zero carbon emissions.

The conference takes place amidst news that 2014 will be the warmest year ever recorded on land an in the oceans, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"We should be able to lay the foundations for a strong agreement in Paris and raise the level of our ambitions so that gradually over the long term we are able to achieve climate neutrality – this is the only way to truly achieve sustainable development for all," says UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.

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