COP20—Lima Climate Conference

Author and Page information

  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Created Saturday, January 24, 2015

On this page:

  1. Introduction
  2. Meeting outcome
  3. Mainstream media reporting
  4. In context: common but differentiated responsibilities
  5. More information
  6. News stories from IPS

Introduction

December 1 – 14, 2014, Lima, Peru was the venue for the 20th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the 20th Conference of the Parties — or COP 20.

The purpose of this conference was to create a universal agreement on climate change action and begin the process of financing mitigation.

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Meeting outcome

The meeting ended with all nations agreeing to cut back greenhouse gas emissions. Known as the Lima Accord, this treaty is not legally binding and countries do not have to specify how much they will cut back, instead agreeing to report their plans back by March 2015.

While for many it sounded like a successful outcome, others were disappointed, such as poor countries struggling to rebuild from current impacts of climate change who were alarmed at the disappearance of loss and damage commitments from the final text which has been part of the discussion for years.

The global climate movement, 350.org, summarized the disappointments and hopeful aspects of the meeting outcome1, noting

  1. The new agreement does not reflect the urgency of the climate crisis
  2. Some good agreements – but no measures to ensure implementation
  3. Least developed and vulnerable nations left out in the cold
  4. Divestment (from fossil fuel reliance) is more important than ever
  5. Global momentum for real solutions is stronger than ever and will keep on going.

In trying to put a positive spin on the overall disappointment they felt, they concluded, In the end, a global climate treaty is just one tool to combat climate change. Real change is going to continue to come from the grassroots. The UN Climate Talks continue to be a place where the world’s countries comes together to debate this crisis and people are putting in enormous efforts to make sure Paris [the next global meeting] won’t be like Copenhagen which was full of disappointments despite big promises.

Samantha Smith, Leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative, was quite scathing of the meeting outcome2 saying that political expediency won over scientific urgency. She also noted that Developed country governments couldn’t even manage to explain how they will deliver the long-promised US$100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020. In a move that seemingly dismissed the plight of the most vulnerable countries, they completely removed any meaningful language about ‘loss and damage’.

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Mainstream media reporting

As with almost every previous meeting (with occasional exceptions), mainstream media reporting was very poor given the importance of this global issue. Where the meeting was reported it was generally towards the end, and just sound bite type summaries saying all countries agreed to emission cuts and that this was a major improvement.

While the treaty continued to say it honors the long-standing common but differentiated responsibilities the mainstream media reporting (as in most years) has typically failed to provide explanation and context of this principle that has been an important part of these talks for over 2 decades; that poor and developing countries should not bear the same responsibilities as the developed ones (because they are not the cause of the anthropogenic carbon emissions over the previous decades that have led to this, which is detailed much more on this site’s page on climate justice3).

A hint towards this principle may have been presented as a viewpoint of China or India, given the impression they are being obstacles, rather then explaining this principle in more context.

That was just one of the issues skirted over or omitted from common reporting. Others included issues on financing, technology support for poorer nations, etc. Behind the scenes, for decades, rich countries have stalled on these things or actively avoided trying to share technology etc, which is barely reported.

Every year, this criticism is made of mainstream reporting, so without following these negotiations each year, it can be easy to come away with the impression that this meeting had a positive outcome.

But as this discussion hosted by Democracy Now! shows, there were a number of important issues of contention:

Emissions-Cutting Deal Reached at COP 20 Lima, But Will It Help Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change?4, Democracy Now!, December 15, 2014.

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In context: common but differentiated responsibilities

Many years ago all nations agreed that climate change was largely the result of actions from today’s industrialized nations, as carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas — stays in the atmosphere for decades. Yet, the poorest would end up suffering the most for a problem they largely did not cause. The approaches to mitigation (emissions reduction) would therefore be different for those groups of countries — the common but differentiated responsibilities principle.

It is in this context that the discussion for loss and damage has come about. And it is something that rich countries are keen to get rid of5.

The years of resistance on this issue (and many others) means each time it is discussed again the reactions seem to get even more hostile. Combined with the lack of detailed context in the mainstream media coverage of this aspect, it then becomes easier each time to see culprits as China and India6 given their enormous greenhouse emissions in recent years, compared to the far greater amount by the industrialized nations over the longer period. See this site’s section on climate justice7 for more detailed background.

And as this site has said for years on the climate justice page, the rich nations are delaying any meaningful action until it is eventually — and disproportionately — paid for the by the developing nations. New Delhi based Nitin Sethi, associate editor at Business Standard, interviewed in the earlier mentioned video says the same thing, but more frankly:

There is no action that’s going to happen between now and 2020. All of that was to be done by the developed countries. They [rich nations] basically have just said at Lima that we are not going to do any more than what we’re doing so far, and the burden can shift onto the post-2020 era, where other developing countries have to share it. So, to me, it indicates really negotiation in bad faith.

Nitin Sethi, Emissions-Cutting Deal Reached at COP 20 Lima, But Will It Help Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change?8, Democracy Now!, December 15, 2014

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More information

As the conference is still underway as this page is written, more information will be added here after the event is over.

For more about the issues from other organizations, here are some starting points:

  • Official United Nations section on COP209
  • Updates from the Third World Network10
  • Coverage from Democracy Now!11 including useful news videos
  • COP20 background from WWF12

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News stories from IPS

Below is a list of stories from Inter Press Service related to the Lima climate conference and its aftermath.

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    Where next?

    Related articles

    1. Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction
    2. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
    3. Reactions to Climate Change Negotiations and Action
    4. Action on climate change is cheaper than inaction
    5. Global Warming, Spin and Media
    6. Climate Justice and Equity
    7. Climate Change Flexibility Mechanisms
    8. Carbon Sinks, Forests and Climate Change
    9. Climate Change Affects Biodiversity
    10. Global Warming and Population

    Online Sources:

    (Note that listed here are only those hyperlinks to other articles from other web sites or elsewhere on this web site. Other sources such as journal, books and magazines, are mentioned above in the original text. Please also note that links to external sites are beyond my control. They might become unavailable temporarily or permanently since you read this, depending on the policies of those sites, which I cannot unfortunately do anything about.)

    1. '5 Things You Need to Know From the UN Climate Agreement', 350.org, undated, accessed January 24, 2015, http://350.org/5-things-you-need-to-know-from-the-un-climate-agreement/
    2. 'UN climate talks fail to deliver progress despite hottest year on record', WWF, December 14, 2014, http://wwf.panda.org/?uNewsID=235452
    3. Global Issues: “Climate Justice and Equity”, Last updated: Sunday, January 08, 2012, http://www.globalissues.org/article/231/climate-justice-and-equity
    4. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/12/15/emissions_cutting_deal_reached_at_cop
    5. Meena Raman, 'Fight over developed-developing country differentiation in 2015 ‘agreement’, Third World Network, November 26, 2013, http://twn.my/title2/climate/news/warsaw01/TWN_update24.pdf
    6. Sunita Narain, 'US-China climate deal: Maker or breaker?', Center for Science and Environment, December 1, 2014, http://www.cseindia.org/content/us-china-climate-deal-maker-or-breaker
    7. Global Issues: “Climate Justice and Equity”, Last updated: Sunday, January 08, 2012, http://www.globalissues.org/article/231/climate-justice-and-equity
    8. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/12/15/emissions_cutting_deal_reached_at_cop
    9. http://unfccc.int/meetings/lima_dec_2014/meeting/8141.php
    10. http://www.twn.my/title2/climate/lima_news.01.htm
    11. http://www.democracynow.org/topics/lima_climate_summit_2014
    12. http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/climate_carbon_energy/cop20/

    Author and Page Information

    • by Anup Shah
    • Created: Saturday, January 24, 2015

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