Lima talks reach acceptable deal on climate change

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The annual United Nations climate talks finally wrapped up in Lima, Peru, in the wee hours of Sunday, achieving an acceptable but not satisfying result and leaving unresolved issues to the climate conference in Paris in December 2015.

In the past two weeks, negotiators from over 190 countries and organizations gathered in the city hosting the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to negotiate an new agreement addressing climate change, which was planned to be passed at the end of 2015 in Paris and come into force in 2020.

The new global climate agreement will bind all countries to measurable targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

It is hoped that this agreement would allow countries to avoid the most calamitous warming-induced climate effects -- including droughts, floods, storms, and sea-level rise -- by limiting global warming.

In addition, countries need to agree on measures for adapting to the near-term, unavoidable impacts of climate change.

While the COP20 was scheduled to release the plan on Friday afternoon, longstanding divisions between developed and developing countries kept them wrangling till the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Two main issues appeared to be holding up the talks.

One is whether developed and developing countries should face different obligations, or the Principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR), under a 2015 deal.

The other one is what climate pledges for this agreement, known as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), should contain and how they will be assessed.

Rich countries insist the pledges should focus on efforts to control emissions while poor countries are resisting demands to include promises of financing to help poor countries tackle climate change.

As the final hours of the Lima conference ticked away and ran into dreadful overtime, parties began to soften their hard lines to come to an agreement.

Countries had strived very hard to reach a pact on the basis of a slimmed-down draft decision text which had been modified for several times.

By earlier today, delegates were cautiously optimistic that a deal would emerge later, but the language was much weaker than many nations, particularly those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, wanted to see.

After meeting key parties on the sidelines of the talks, Peru environment minister and COP20 president Manuel Pulgar-Vidal released the new, fourth draft. Without any objections from all of the participating countries, it was accepted.

"As a text it's not perfect but it includes the positions of the parties," said Pulgar-Vidal, who had spent all afternoon and evening meeting separately with delegations.

The Lima agreement lays out a wide range of options for a global pact to be reached in Paris and lays out how each nation will submit its own plans for curbing global warming in the first half of 2015.

The deal includes the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and also loss and damage is back in this version of the text.

The most inspiring development in Lima was the support for a long-term effort to reduce emissions. Over a hundred countries now advocate for a long-term mitigation goal, sending a strong signal that the low-carbon economy is inevitable.

Critics said that the new version of text released provided "a lot of clarity" on what countries have to put in their national plans and includes a review of how well they collectively measure up against the 2 degree Celsius warming limit, ahead of Paris.

Issues of major concerns during the conference have been reflected in the Lima deal. For example, loss and damage is back in this version of the text, albeit in the preamble and reference to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility has emerged fairly high up the text.

In response to the slow-moving negotiations in Lima, Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation and vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRS), said that Lima conference paves the pathway towards Paris meeting next year, which is expected to be even more arduous and requires more flexibility and political will from all parties concerned.

In regards to the Lima deal, Xie said: "We hope that this decision can truly reflect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities upon implementation and all elements in addressing climate change."

"Developed countries should honor their commitments and shoulder their responsibilities under the Convention to do more in support of developing countries in terms of mitigation, finance, technology, and capability building," he said.

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