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Lima Climate Change Summit Highlights Challenge of Paris 2015

united nations“The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.”

Not the script from the Paddington movie but another export from Peru.

This time it was Sam Smith, Chief of Climate Policy for World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reacting to the conclusion of the UN’s Lima talks in preparation for a ‘global climate pact’ to be made in Paris 12 months from now.

The pre-agreement agreement followed tortuous debate as the developing nations rejected what they saw were clauses and covenants enabling developed countries to avoid their obligations.

Presenting the fourth draft, Peru’s Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal admitted:

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties”

Life affirming it was not. Phrases such as “common but differentiated responsibilities” were a typical political fudge over a much more complex issue.

In a more positive tone Pulgar-Vidal claimed:

“Today the world has shown the responsibility to deal with the consequences of climate change”

The Lima meeting was designed to get nearly 200 countries together to declare their individual pledges for the 2015 pact.

Cue unquantifiable if, buts and maybes all over the final draft.

Our own Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change claimed the lack of quantifiable targets was not of threat to reaching a consensus in Paris saying:

“That’s not a problem. The political reality is that big countries — the UK, Europe, Japan, the US, China, India, Brazil — they’ll all have to do it.”

The ‘chocolate fireguard’ analogy was amplified with some members, led by China, refusing to allow the individual countries’ pledges to be compared to one another to ensure the most balanced outcome possible.

Instead the conference agreed that the UN could examine the ‘aggregate’ impact of all the targets.

US secretary of state John Kerry said tackling the issue of climate change at this level was acceptable as it was:

“Everyone’s responsibility, because it’s the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country’s share.”

Even this however faces timing constraints with that work not due to commence until November 2015, just one month ahead of the crucial Paris meeting.

With the rapid development of the ‘developing’ world, particularly China and India, the tables have turned with the developing nations now producing the majority of CO2 emissions at a time of the Western nations reducing usage and investing in renewable energy sources.

Early in the piece there were higher hopes for a universal agreement after a landmark US-China pact was agreed to lower emissions with nearly $10bn of pledges from wealthy countries to help poorer nations deal with climate change.

Paris 2015 will be the third time, following 1997 and 2007, that the world’s leaders have attempted to agree a cohesive global plan to tackle CO2 emissions. Yet China’s unwillingness to show its hand and to allow the Paris talks to start from the front foot placed a major doubt over its potential outcome.

It is however expected to be the first time that all countries will commit to reducing CO2 emissions from 2020 yet the timescales to achieve that goal are extremely tight with the individual countries only expected to provide their pledges in Q1/Q2 2015 ahead of UN publication and the aggregate measurement in November.

The confidence in a binding, effective and sufficient agreement to tackle climate change being agreed in Paris this time next year is seemingly less likely than a white Christmas.