14 December, Lima—The 194 countries attending the Lima Climate Conference reached agreement early Sunday on key decisions that provide the foundation for a climate change pact in Paris late next year.
“The decisions adopted in Lima pave the way for the adoption of a universal and meaningful agreement in 2015,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement issued at the conclusion of the two-week meeting.
Looking to Paris, he urged the parties to the Convention to enter into substantive negotiations, based on the Lima Call for Action, for the 2015 agreement at their first meeting, to be held in February in Geneva.
During the Conference, countries defined what they will need to prepare and present in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the new agreement. These contributions, which will serve as the basic building blocks of the Paris accord, will contain information on the nature and scope of countries’ projected actions to address climate change, above and beyond what they are now doing.
The Secretary-General also called on all countries, especially the major economies, to submit ambitious national commitments well in advance of the Paris meeting. At last year’s conference in Warsaw, countries were urged to submit their contributions by the end of the first quarter of 2015.
Countries also finalized the institutional architecture for a new mechanism on loss and damage, an issue of great importance to the countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. “Loss and damage” refers to measures that could be taken to alleviate suffering in instances where adaptation efforts do not suffice.
The Lima Conference was buoyed from the start by commitments made last September at the Climate Summit, which was held in UN Headquarters in New York, and then by a series of emissions-reduction announcements made by the European Union, China and the United States.
Countries had also pledged nearly US$10 billion for the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund, which will provide financing for projects to address climate change in developing countries. In Lima, announcements from several countries – developed and developing — pushed the pledge total beyond the initial US$10 billion goal.
The thousands of conferees did not need to attend the meetings to be reminded of the importance of their work. During the Conference, the World Meteorological Organization presented a provisional report showing that, based on data from the first 10 months of the year, 2014 was on its way to becoming the world’s hottest year on record. And Typhoon Hagupit reminded theem of the consequence of severe weather as it lashed the Philippines. It marked the third consecutive year that a deadly typhoon struck the Philippines during a climate conference.
During the final hours of the Conference, negotiations stumbled over difficult issues, such as how to differentiate the obligations and responsibilities of developing and developed countries, and frustration grew among many here.
But the talks continued throughout Saturday, with Conference President and Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal holding a series of meetings and redacting the draft document to meet individuals’ concerns.
“With this text, we all win,” he said after finalizing the draft, adding that it was not only “more focused,” but that “it takes into account the concerns of everyone, without exception.”
In addition to sending the world a strong signal of hope and trust, “Lima has given new urgency towards fast tracking adaptation and building resilience across the developing world – not least by strengthening the link to finance and the development of national adaptation plans.”
He added, “It is the way to show that we are mobilizing action from Lima to Paris.”
The two weeks of the Conference proved “very, very challenging,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, who nonetheless praised its outcome. “With this COP and moving on to Paris, we cement the fact that we will address climate change.”
Governments leave Lima “with a range of key decisions agreed and action-agendas launched, including how to better scale up and finance adaptation, alongside actions on forests and education,” she said.
Though concerns about technical issues slowed the progress of the Lima meeting, a sense of perspective among participants ensured they did not keep the participants from reaching their goal, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters. “Beyond these technical things there are lives and deaths of millions of people, and all of us are aware of that.”
The action agenda during the 2015 meeting in Paris, slated to begin 30 November and to end 11 December, will include a day devoted to action by civil society, cities, regions, private companies, non-governmental organizations, “everybody,” he said.
Quoting an oft-repeated phrase used by Mr. Ban, Mr. Fabius added, “We have to be successful because there is no Planet B. When we say that, we say nearly everything.”