Global climate talks opened in Lima Monday morning to a colourful display of traditional Peruvian music and dance, together with speeches from Peru’s President Ollanta Humala, and Environment Minister and President of the Conference, Mr. Manuel Pulgar–Vidal.
An energetic minister, Pulgar–Vidal called for ‘compromise, optimism, and determination’ to make COP20 a success, saying Peru had made every effort to ensure the talks were productive. He urged delegates not to lose the international momentum made in recent weeks with a landmark US-China climate deal and nearly US$ 10 billion committed to the Green Climate Fund.
Addressing the delegates via video, President Humala called the climate challenge ‘complex’ and a ‘reality’. Although optimistic about the conference, the President emphasized the need for ‘concrete commitments through diverse dialogue’. Peru’s goal, he said, was to deliver to Paris in 2015 the text for a new global agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997.
_Manuel Pulgar-Vidal addresses the COP20 audience (Photo: Corey Watts/Peru this Week)_
The Peruvian Government is working closely with France in an effort to make a smooth transition from COP20 to COP21. Exactly what shape the final treaty will take is still an open question, although Peru appears keen to see stronger pledges to assist developing countries to adapt and decouple growth in emissions from economic growth.
Humala drew on the longevity of pre-Columbian Peru as an example of a civilization that had achieved harmony with its environment.
‘Humanity at some point left behind the practices of sustainability. Now is the time to return to the right path. Let us do the job,’ he said.
The Chair of the UN’s climate science panel, Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, also addressed the conference, saying he had the unenviable task of bringing the delegates back to reality.
Each successive decade had been hotter than the last, he said, and it is ‘extremely likely’ that human activity is the main driver. Both rich and poor countries were already feeling the impacts even as emissions of carbon dioxide continued to rise in the last decade much faster than in the previous three.
Dr. Pachauri said that it had recently become clear that the world’s oceans are absorbing most—more than 90%— of the extra heat trapped by greenhouse gases. At the same time, he said, land temperatures were hitting historic highs. The global average sea level has risen by nearly 20 centimetres in the last century.
Dr. Pachauri warned that without a 40–70% reduction in global emissions by 2050, and zero emissions by 2100, the world is at risk of dwindling resources, such as water, with increasing ‘pockets of poverty’ and population displacement in both rich and poor countries, especially in urban centres.
He listed key actions, including the more efficient use of energy, cleaner energy—including nuclear power and bioenergy—and forest conservation and restoration, as well as technologies that capture and store carbon. Dr. Pachauri said that though the challenge was big the world had the resources and the technology to rise to it without significantly undermining global economic growth.
‘The longer the delay,’ Dr. Pachauri said, ‘the more difficult, more intractable, and more expensive’ the task becomes.
Meanwhile, in its opening statement, Australia, representing the so-called Umbrella Group of nations, suggested developing countries should shoulder more of the effort. It argued that since the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed, rich countries contributed proportionately less pollution than in the past.
According to Bloomberg Clean Energy Finance, Australia has lost much of its credibility around the UN negotiating table since its government this year repealed laws and programmes intended to promote investment in clean energy. The first day of COP20 has come and gone. What was discussed?