Welcoming an Important Step Forward at UN Climate Talks in Lima

By Xuedu Lu

There is still long way to go to reach a final agreement for effective climate change action in 2015, but the COP20 in Lima was an important step forward. 

On 14 December 2014, the COP20 of the UNFCCC concluded successfully with the adoption of the Lima Call for Climate Action after lengthy negotiations by government representatives from around the world. We warmly welcome this important step forward in tackling climate change.

The Lima decision requires all nations to prepare measures to address climate change, including ambitious and bold targets to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in coming decades, and to submit their “contributions” to the UN early this year so they can be incorporated into a new climate change agreement to be adopted in Paris in late 2015 at the next UNFCC meeting, COP21.

The political disputes over the differentiation of groups of countries (developing countries versus developed countries) and the application of UNFCCC principles (for instance, equity, common but differentiated responsibilities) in the new agreement were the most difficult issues on the negotiation table. The Lima decision that reached consensus on these two issues should have solved the political debate and should help facilitate the substantial negotiation of a new agreement in 2015.

It’s probable that those issues may appear again from time to time but they should not be a big barrier anymore. The US-People’s Republic of China agreement on climate change almost certainly contributed to reaching this consensus since the two countries solved this political problem when they negotiated their bilateral agreement.

The significant financial contributions to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which reached more than $10 billion during the Lima COP including pledges before and during the COP20, provide a solid basis to support developing countries in addressing climate change. This progress in financial mobilization enhanced the mutual confidence between developing countries and developed countries, which will for sure help push forward the new agreement negotiations. In fact, the need for finance, technology transfer, and capacity building for developing countries, as part of the new agreement, was strongly stressed by developing countries during the Lima talks.

Adaptation was an issue highlighted particularly by small island countries and least developed countries who called strongly for support to help them to enhance their adaptation capacity. Adequate support for advanced climate technology development and transfer was also part of the heated debate. 

Last, the Lima COP adopted a historic decision to launch the Lima work program on gender to strengthen gender balance in the context of climate change and the ministerial declaration on climate change education calling for the inclusion of climate change issues in school curricula. With these two decisions, it can be expected to enhance the public awareness in addressing climate change through school education and to encourage and facilitate the engagement of women and girls in combating climate change in Asia and Pacific region in the future.

There is still long way to go to reach a final agreement for effective climate change action in 2015, but Lima was certainly an important step forward.  With the most difficult political disputes having been largely concluded (hopefully all governments had the same understanding as well!), I am optimistic that ambitious and bold measures in addressing climate change can be successfully negotiated in 2015 in Paris.