UN official sees upcoming Lima climate talks as ‘stepping stone’ for universal treaty

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. Photo: UNFCC

28 November 2014 – As Governments prepare to meet for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, starting on Monday, a top UN official has highlighted the session as an opportunity to raise immediate awareness on climate change and lay the foundation for a new universal agreement to be adopted in 2015.

“Never before have the risks of climate change been so obvious and the impacts so visible. Never before have we seen such a desire at all levels of society to take climate action. Never before has society had all the smart policy and technology resources to curb greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in a press release today.

“All of this means we can be confident we will have a productive meeting in Lima, which will lead to an effective outcome in Paris next year,” she added, referring to the climate conference that will take place in December 2015 in Paris, France, where the new universal UN-backed treaty on climate change will be adopted.

The UNFCCC is an international treaty that considers what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.

The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), being held in Lima through 12 December, brings together the 196 Parties to the UNFCCC, which is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Over the course of the next two weeks, delegates will attempt to hammer out the new universal treaty, which would enter force by 2020.

Ms. Figueres explained that Governments meeting in Lima under the Ad Hoc Work Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action need to define the scope and the type of contributions they will provide to the Paris agreement, along with clarity on how finance, technology and capacity-building will be handled.

Countries will put forward what they plan to contribute to the 2015 agreement in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by the first quarter of 2015, in advance of the Paris conference in December.

The Lima conference should provide final clarity on what the INDCs need to contain, including for developing countries that are likely to have a range of options from, for example, sector-wide emission curbs to energy intensity goals, she said.

Welcoming the leadership of the European Union, the United States and China, who have publically announced their post-2020 climate targets and visions, Ms. Figueres stressed that many countries are working hard to increase emission reductions before 2020, when the Paris agreement is set to enter into effect.

“It is hugely encouraging that well ahead of next year’s first-quarter deadline, countries have already been outlining what they intend to contribute to the Paris agreement. This is also a clear sign that countries are determined to find common ground and maximize the potential of international cooperation,” she said.

In particular, Ms. Figueres said that Governments should work towards streamlining elements of the draft agreement for Paris 2015 and explore common ground on unresolved issues in order to achieve a balanced, well-structured, coherent draft for the next round of work on the text in February next year.

In addition, she noted that the political will of countries to provide climate finance is increasingly coming to the fore.

At a recent pledging conference held in Berlin, Germany, countries made pledges towards the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund totalling nearly $9.3 billion. Subsequent pledges took this figure to $9.6 billion, so that the $10 billion milestone is within reach, Ms. Figueres said.

“This shows that countries are determined to build trust and to provide the finance that developing countries need to move forward towards decarbonizing their economies and building resilience,” she noted.

During the course of 2014, Governments have been exploring how to raise immediate climate ambition in areas with the greatest potential to curb emissions, ranging from renewable energy to cities, she said.

As part of the “Lima Action Agenda,” countries will decide how to maintain and accelerate cooperation on climate change by all actors, including those flowing from the Climate Summit in September, where many climate action pledges were made.

“We have seen an amazing groundswell of momentum building this year. One of the main deliverables of the Lima conference will be ways to build on this momentum and further mobilize action across all levels of society,” Ms. Figueres said.

“Society-wide action in concert with Government contributions to the Paris agreement are crucial to meet the agreed goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius, and to safeguard this and future generations,” she added.

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