Compromise is the essence of good government, they say, but it’s the nature of compromise to leave both parties only partially satisfied.
Such is the case with the Lima climate talks, which were meant to run from December 1-12 and concluded two days late to accommodate the warring demands of developed and developing countries. The COP20’s main goal was to craft an international framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions leading up to the Paris climate summit in 2015. There, nations plan to sign an agreement that will dictate global climate policies after 2020, such as limiting emissions enough to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius for this century.
At Lima, negotiations began optimistically enough, but as emissions mitigation centered on developing countries in the second week, delegates began to butt heads. By Friday, it was clear that wealthier and poorer countries were not satisfied with the draft text for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), which the ultimate Paris treaty will be based on. According to the Guardian, wealthier countries wanted clearer language on the subject of emissions cuts and less specific responsibility for cutting those emissions. Developing countries wanted wealthier countries to shoulder more responsibility for emissions cuts and also wanted more concrete commitments to climate-related aid and adaptation funds. Meanwhile, small island states wanted language in the ADP that enumerated the great “loss and damage” they face as the globe warms and sea levels rise.
These warring wants forced the COP20 to go into overtime and prompted activists in Lima to stage “die-ins” to symbolize the impact of their delay.
The Lima talks have concluded today, with no major victories proclaimed. As BBC News’ Mark McGrath put it, “None of the 194 countries attending the talks walked away with everything they wanted, but everybody got something.”
The final draft of the ADP contains the “loss and damage” wording that island nations sought (though it nearly didn’t), which could give them the political support to request more climate aid in the future. However, which countries will be responsible for most of the emissions cuts remains vague, which prolongs a long-running issue in the United Nations negotiations known as the “firewall.”
The firewall refers to the gap between developed countries that have been industrializing for 100 years and the countries that are just now catching up. The argument goes that developing countries should not have to reduce their emissions as much as developed countries because of the unfair advantage wealthy, developed countries have reaped from not having to worry about their emissions. Countries like the U.S. dislike this notion, arguing that relaxing any country’s emissions standard will be detrimental to global health.
“The firewall issue is the most difficult issue. It is what the history of climate change negotiations has bequeathed to us. Countries that have grown and become wealthy cleave to it because it means they don’t have to do what other countries have to do,” said Ed Davey, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary.
The final draft of the ADP reached a compromise by saying that countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to deal with global warming. The text calls for developed countries to support “vulnerable” developing countries; requests national pledges to be submitted by the first quarter of 2015 for those parties “ready to do so”; and for the UNFCCC to report back on national pledges in November 2015.
Opinions varied on how successful Lima’s COP20 negotiations have been.
Ed Davey said the compromise was “a really important step” in forming a global climate policy, though he acknowledged the work that is still yet to be done. “I am not going to say it will be a walk in the park in Paris,” he told BBC.
Miguel Arias Canete, the EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, admitted he’d hoped for something more ambitious but that “we are on track to agree [to] a global deal” in Paris 2015.
Todd Stern, the U.S.’s chief negotiator, said the outcome was “quite good in the end.”
As for the ADP itself, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s environment minister and the chairman of the Lima summit, told reporters, “As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties.”
Some environmental parties were more pessimistic in their final assessments. Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the World Wildlife Fund, told BBC, “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.”
Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, said that the fears Lima would not deliver “a fair and ambitious outcome” were proven “tragically accurate.”