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Lima: Calling for Climate Actions at COP-20 in Lima

The twentieth COP, held in Lima (Peru, December 2014), was the last COP session before the deadline for adopting a new post-2020 climate regime at COP-21 (UNFCCC 2014a, p. 4, para 2). Earlier COPs had laid the groundwork for that by tearing down the wall between developed and developing countries, establishing a Green Climate Fund to financially support implementation of the regime, operating a Technology Mechanism to accelerate development and transfer of low emission and climate resilient technologies (specially to developing countries) and slowly but surely developing a regime where climate measures are embedded in national development plans. Now, it was time to work on the scope, content and review of nationally proposed climate measures (the INDCs, which had been introduced at COP-19 in Warsaw, see above).

The negotiations at COP-20 benefited from a number of inspiring events which had taken place in the months and weeks before the meeting in Lima. First, the IPCC had substantiated its earlier conclusions about how human actions can influence global climate systems (IPCC 2014), which contributed to an enhanced sense of urgency. The UNEP Emissions Gap report 2014, using IPCC data, showed that the remaining ‘carbon budget’ for the world as a whole (remaining greenhouse gas emissions before reaching the 2 °C threshold) was around 1000 giga tonnes of greenhouse gases. With global greenhouse gas emissions amounting to 55 giga tonnes per year, this budget would be fully spent within 20 years (UNEP 2014).

At the political level, a few weeks before the COP, on 12 November 2014, US President Obama, in a meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing during an APEC summit, announced that the USA would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26-28 % compared to emission levels in 2005. President Xi announced that Chinese greenhouse gas emissions would peak by the year 2030, after which a decline in emissions would have to take place (Vlaskamp and Elshout 2014). On the financial front, the COP could kick off with a message that the Green Climate Fund had been receiving donations from developed and developing countries and during COP-20 the targeted initial capitalisation of the fund (USD 10 billion) was achieved (IISD 2014).

So far, things went smoothly and the ‘atmosphere’ or ‘momentum’ seemed to have been created for a successful COP. However, the question of whether the negotiations were a success was not univocally answered as several country negotiators, especially those from developing countries, were disappointed about progress with discussions on finance. Despite reaching the USD 10 billion capitalisation threshold for the Green Climate Fund, there was still a lack of trust in whether the agreed USD 100 billion per year in 2020 would be reached. There had been progress, but it had been slow and without guarantees. Moreover, there were concerns about how the COP had handled differentiation between developed and developing countries. Now that all countries had been invited to define their

INDCs, especially the like-minded developing countries questioned whether this development was in line with the UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. In Lima, developing countries used the negotiation time to ensure that differentiation between developed and developing countries should be reflected in the INDCs. At the end of the session, however, no clear agreement was reached on differentiation. Instead, differentiation was implicitly facilitated in the Lima Call for Action by allowing countries to include in their INDCs different (types of) content, scopes and review processes (UNFCCC 2015a).

On content of countries’ INDCs, the AWG-DP negotiations identified several potential topics to be included, such as actions, quantification of effort, time frames, methodologies for calculating emission reductions, and responsibilities (UNFCCC 2015a, p. 3, para 14). However, these items were not made mandatory, so that countries had considerable scope of freedom in formulating their plans. In terms of scope, developing countries complained at Lima that INDCs only seemed to focus on greenhouse gas emission reduction (climate change mitigation), while for developing countries, especially the most vulnerable ones, ability to protect themselves against climate change (adaptation) was equally, if not more important (IISD 2014). With the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (UNFCCC 2014b) developing countries had already formalised this issue in a policy framework, but they wanted adaptation to also be considered an important element of INDCs. Eventually, COP-20’s decision on the Lima Call for Action contained an invitation to countries to also ‘consider including’ adaptation measures in their INDCs (UNFCCC 2015a; IISD 2014, p. 44).

However, perhaps the most important question in a post-2020 climate regime will be whether and how all INDCs together will help the world stay below a global average temperature increase of 1.5 or 2 °C. Embedding climate actions in national socio-economic (development) plans implies the risk that climate ambitions are limited by economic boundaries or preferences. In order to keep a clear view on countries’ common progress towards the 1.5 or 2 °C goals, the EU and the Small Island Development States (the latter driven by their particularly vulnerable position) called for a strong review process with measures to support countries to do more if needed (IISD 2014). This strong review proposal did not survive the COP-20 negotiations, though. Instead, it was agreed that countries would communicate their INDCs well in advance of COP-21 (UNFCCC 2015a, p. 3, para 13) so that the UNFCCC Secretariat could prepare a synthesis report on their aggregate effect as input for the COP-21 negotiations (UNFCCC 2015a, p. 3, para 16b).

In terms of timing, this was challenging, as countries only had around nine months to formulate complete climate change mitigation (and adaptation) plans in light of their domestic socio-economic priorities. Identifying climate measures in light of development priorities usually requires participatory discussions with stakeholders, identification of strategic sectors or areas for climate and development and prioritisation of (technology) options within these sectors or areas, as well as formulation of (business) proposals for implementation of these options. Based on experience with, for example, technology needs assessment (TNA) projects under the Convention (UNFCCC Secretariat 2013), such a process may easily take around two years. As a consequence, the short time frame for preparing INDCs before ‘Paris’ could lead to shallow plans without thorough, inclusive participatory analysis.

A second potential problem was that there would be very little time between 1 November 2015, when the Secretariat would make available its INDC synthesis report, and the start of the decisive COP-21 in Paris (about three weeks later). As a result, should the synthesis report conclude that the aggregate effect of the INDCs communicated by countries would be insufficient for meeting the 2 °C target, no time would be left for corrective actions. It was an unavoidable consequence of negotiations under pressure with a primary focus on completing a negotiation process: there was insufficient time to focus on the quality of content.

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