Critics warn over COP 20’s ‘vague’ final agreement

Copyright: Lou Del Bello

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  • The document is meant to set a baseline for 2015 talks on a global climate deal
  • But the Lima agreement is criticised for being nebulous and unambitious
  • Rather than a global target, nations may report back on individual goals

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[LIMA] After running two days over its anticipated schedule, the 20th UN Conference of the Parties on climate change (COP 20) concluded yesterday with an agreement that reiterates some of last year’s commitments towards more vulnerable countries, such as the ‘loss-and-damage mechanism’ — but many believe a far bolder approach to climate change response is urgently needed.
The loss-and-damage mechanism, approved last year at COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland, is designed to compensate countries for climate change-related losses that they are otherwise unable to adapt to, such as extreme weather events or rising sea levels.
The mechanism had been at risk of being left out of the final agreementFurther advancing the Durban platform — but was restored in the final hours of a heated plenary meeting on 13 December.
Ilan Kelman, a risk reduction and climate change expert at University College London, United Kingdom, believes that country negotiators have had more than enough time to design and implement lasting solutions to tackling climate change, and that there is now need for a significantly more robust deal than the Lima agreement.
“The most vulnerable countries, notably the small island developing states, deserve much better,” he tells SciDev.Net.
“First, [there needs to be] much more support for bottom-up adaptation on the communities’ own terms but with the external support they are requesting. Second, [what is needed is] much better integration of adaptation into disaster risk reduction and development processes to ensure that adaptation does not cause more problems than it solves.”
Kelman points out that the knowledge to implement climate response measures is already available, and what is lacking is implementation.
The five-page Lima agreement urges all parties to submit plans for their climate goals “well in advance” of the COP 21 meeting in Paris, France, in November 2015. It also reiterates the principle of the parties’ common but differentiated responsibilities “in light of different national circumstances”.
But critics say the text is too vague, and the goals it sets out too limited.
“We are pleased that the state of the least developing countries has been recognised and some important points were brought back in the text at the end of the negotiations,” says Simon Anderson, a climate change and adaptation expert at UK think-tank the International Institute for Environment and Development.

“We now need much stronger guidelines to ensure greater transparency on climate finance and to enforce effective technology implementation.”

Simon Anderson,  IIED 

“But we now need much stronger guidelines to ensure greater transparency on climate finance and to enforce effective technology implementation.”
Anderson joins many other observers in judging the text’s language to be too nebulous, and warns that this will make it difficult to hold states accountable to clear, measurable targets.
The Lima document is intended to set the baseline for the ratification of a global deal on greenhouse gas emission cuts. Until the Paris meeting, individual countries will only be able to focus on their national declared contributions, Anderson says. This, too, is problematic, he says.
“An international legally binding agreement would be the ideal solution, but it may be difficult to put in practice because each country has its own assessment system for mitigation and adaptation,” he explains, adding that a “second-best and more pragmatic solution” would require countries to proceed individually on their climate response goals, and report back to a global platform under a voluntary agreement.
Anderson adds that countries undergoing political upheaval or conflict may find it especially challenging to meet their international goals.
Several think-tanks, including the World Resources Institute and the Climate Policy Initiative, have suggested that the private sector may play a crucial role in helping countries scale up climate-responsive policies regardless of their political situation.
They believe that private actors could help support the transition to a global, low-carbon economy and improve adaptation in vulnerable countries, and have called for their role to be firmly considered in next year’s negotiations.
Link to Lima agreement (PDF)