UN climate conference reveals differences

By He Shan in Lima, Peru
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, December 4, 2014
Adjust font size:

The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol is taking place from Dec. 1 to 12 in Lima, Peru.

This conference will have a significant impact on next year's United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Paris. But the politics and interests of various parties are casting many uncertainties over the ongoing conference, making the world wonder if there will be any satisfying results.

One of the major goals of the conference is to decide elements needed for the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris in 2015 to achieve a new agreement. While the Kyoto Protocol is a pillar in building the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris agreement will be the next pillar.

The core topic of the new deal is "intended nationally determined contributions" (INDCs). Although many details have yet to be decided, it is likely to include a carbon emissions reduction. But the question of whether to make emission reduction the core of the new deal has triggered differences between developed and developing countries.

Developed countries think emissions reduction should be the one and only core issue, while developing countries think emissions cuts and adapting to the effects of climate change have the same importance. Adaptation leads to the difficult problem of funding. This needs every party to show their sincerity and reach a consensus, which will break down the barriers and resolve the problems for the new deal.

Xu Huaqing, deputy director of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC), said that before the new agreement is reached, participating countries should enhance the consensus and put aside the secondary issues. When the new deal is passed, they can then work on details. "Don't hesitate on regulations and details. The most important thing to do is to form a consensus on basic elements of the new agreement," he said.

Although the main goal of this conference is to set the framework for 2015 new deal, it is still proving very difficult. Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of China's top economic development body the National Development and Reform Commission, who is responsible for global multilateral climate negotiations, said, "The Lima conference will mainly lay a foundation, and decide the framework. Even just doing this will cause very big controversies. Every country wants to show their position and demands at the conference, so next year's negotiations will be even harder."

Besides deciding elements for Paris conference, the Lima conference will touch on two other important topics. One is the developed countries honoring their pledges to provide support to developing countries via funding, technology transfers and skills training, and the other is that developed countries must boost their efforts to cut more emissions by 2020.

Just two weeks ago, representatives of 21 countries made pledges in Berlin to raise a total of up to US$9.3 billion for the Green Climate Fund. The pledges mean developing countries can apply for projects until the Paris conference at the end of 2015. Although the amount fell short of what the developing countries want (as much as US$15 billion,) at least there has been progress on the issue for which the developed countries were often criticized.

In 2009, the Copenhagen climate conference announced that the developed countries shall donate US$100 billion to developing countries every year from 2020 to cut emissions and adapt to a changing global climate. But the developed countries have not followed their words up with actions, which has meant the funding has progressed slowly.

Su Wei, deputy chief of Chinese delegation, chief climate negotiator and Director-General of the Department of Climate Change at the National Development and Reform Commission, told China.org.cn after the Lima conference opening ceremony, "We have heard a lot about pledges. That is why the theme of the Lima conference is 'action.' The most important thing is to see if any pledges can be materialized, which will allow developing countries to consolidate enough money to deal with the pressing global threat of climate change in the progress of their sustainable development. "

It is worth nothing that the populism in developed countries now may be a significant factor affecting the process of climate change. The Republican Party congressmen, who won the midterm election in the United States, have already spoken loudly to undermine President Barack Obama's pledge of US$3 billion. In the United Kingdom, there are powers to limit the foreign aid budget inside the ruling Conservative Party. The developed countries' funding pledges are facing big pressure in whether or not they will be honored.

During the APEC summit in Beijing in November, China and America issued the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change. The announcement was a little unexpected, but the sincerity shown by both sides on announcing the emission cut targets has received positive feedback around the world.

According to the joint announcement, the United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions in 2025 by 26 - 28 percent below its 2005 level and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28 percent. China intends to achieve a peak in CO2 emissions around 2030 and will make its best efforts to peak early. It intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030.

The release of the announcement has set a model for other countries to announce further emission reduction plans and has given a positive boost to the new agreement to be reached in Paris.

One of the highlights of the announcement shows that the two countries are "committed to reaching an ambitious 2015 agreement that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances." It means the biggest developed country and the biggest developing country have reached consensus on the " common responsibilities" with their own differences, which will avoid big controversies in the future negotiations.

Xie Zhenhua said publicity of the US-China announcement and EU's released action goals means that the countries and regions which are responsible for 60 percent of the global emissions have released their own targets and have definite attitude. This shows there are good prospects for the multilateral process.

Martin Kaiser, head of the International Climate Politics at Greenpeace, said the Lima climate conference will directly determine the success or failure of next year's Paris agreement. As the biggest greenhouse emitters, the EU, the United States and China have respectively made commitments to lower emissions after 2020, and these new developments may become a possible turning point in Lima for the deadlocked climate talks.

Translated from Chinese by Zhang Rui

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter