Delegates burn the midnight oil at climate summit


Beginning on a hopeful note a fortnight ago, the COP20 international climate summit is now set to go down to the wire as delegates met late into Thursday night still with much work to do. COP20 was scheduled to finish at midday today however may have to be extended.

Haggard looks on the faces of COP20 delegates reflect two long weeks of debate over what began as a six-page negotiating text, ballooning out to around 50. It is understood that, as of last night, countries had agreed upon only a single paragraph.

In an emphatic speech to the COP yesterday, United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, called on countries to put aside their differences and work for the common good. There was, he said, no alternative to agreement except global catastrophe.

Last night, the nations were stuck on a several topics, including how to slice up emissions reductions amongst themselves; what efforts they will make after 2020, in particular. March 2015 is the deadline called for by UN Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon for countries to announce what they will do to cut greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.

There is also disagreement over what level of detail each ought to be required to submit for their plans. Moreover, and importantly for Peru and other less-developed countries, the question of adaptation remains unresolved, as does how to ratchet up financing for this and clean energy.

It remains to be seen whether the draft text—replete with myriad optional words, lines, and paragraphs—will be that which is taken to Paris next year. The less progress made in Lima today, say veteran observers, the greater the pressure on negotiators in 2015, and the higher the risk that the international community will fail to reach an agreement on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. That, in turn, risks what scientists warn would be a dangerous delay.

At the start of the conference, the head of the scientific Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, told delegates the world had, at most, fifteen years to reverse the rise in emissions of carbon dioxide, without which the chances of avoiding 2˚C global warming evaporate rapidly.

Past summits have seen the President of the COP take on a critical role. The 2009 summit in Copenhagen is thought to have failed in large part because the Danish presidency did not intervene in time. Talks in Cancun, however, saw the Mexican presidency deliver a draft outcome that catalysed progress.

Cognizant of these lessons, the COP20 President and Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar–Vidal, last night committed to work with the co-chairs to produce a new text. In a speech to weary delegates, Pulgar–Vidal said the time for “I want” had passed; they had to make a decision.

Despite slow progress, the Climate Action Network—a confederation of over 900 NGOs in 100 countries—praised the efforts of Latin America. CAN said that several countries in the region had made constructive proposals.

Together with other less-developed countries, Peru has repeatedly called for climate finance to be ratcheted up to US$ 100 billion a year by 2020, a long way above the current total pledge of US$ 10 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

The last few days have seen Peru and other members of the so-called Pacific Alliance make their own pledges to the GCF. Meanwhile, some developed countries have sought to remove wording from the draft negotiating text that would, in effect, see them freed from further financial commitments.

CAN says that unless a plan for raising money is in the draft text, this element would be a “toothless tiger”.

Oxfam International’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, said this is one of many critical issues still to be resolved before a deal can be made in Paris.

“Progress is far too slow,” she said, “Sometimes we forget what these talks are really about. Underneath the technical details we discuss here, this conference is really about human rights.”

“It is about the right to food, the right to water, the right to land, and the right to stand up for these rights.”
Talks between participating countries continue today as COP20 finishes up in Lima.