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Lima climate talks finally reach a close

In the early hours of Sunday morning, 36 hours behind schedule, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Lima concluded with an agreement by the governments on a decision that outlines the points to be agreed upon in Paris in 2015 for the next global climate agreement. This is now described as the “Lima Call for Climate Action”.

Many elements of the next global climate agreement were not resolved in Lima will now have to be determined before or during the final round of talks in Paris in 2015.

So what was agreed in Lima?

Lima had two main deliverables going into the talks:

a) To finalise the scope and format of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) which governments will present next year for the Paris agreement; and
b) To compile the draft negotiating text for the 2015 Agreement.

Both of these were ultimately achieved, but whether the final decision can been seen as “progress” towards the Paris agreement is open to conjecture. The decision reached in Lima re-confirms that the final agreement in Paris in December 2015, if approved, will be a patchwork of national climate plans (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)”). However, the final language on the content and scope of the INDCs was reduced to just one paragraph (below):

“14. Agrees that the information to be provided by Parties communicating their intended nationally determined contributions, in order to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding, may include, as appropriate, inter alia, quantifiable information on the reference point (including, as appropriate, a base year), time frames and/or periods for implementation, scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches including those for estimating and accounting for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and, as appropriate, removals, and how the Party considers that its intended nationally determined contribution is fair and ambitious, in light of its national circumstances, and how it contributes towards achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2”

Governments will now have to develop their INDCs and — to quote the text again — for “those ready to do so”, submit them by Q1 2015. How these will be compared or reviewed remains open to question.

Throughout the two-week meeting, the three main areas of discussion were:

a) Whether the INDCs should include mitigation (emissions cuts), adaptation, finance, technology transfer, capacity building and transparency or solely mitigation;
b) How frequently, and by whom, should the INDCs be reviewed if these should be aggregated before the Paris talks next December; and
3. Should there be recognition in the final agreement of the differentiation between developed and developing countries (known by the acronym of CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities)) and where should this divide lie.

Other major topics, as mentioned previously, were the legal form of the Paris 2015 agreement (will it be a totally legally-binding agreement, or will only certain elements of it be binding?) and the scope of pre-2020 actions.

In summary, the text that was finally adopted as the “Lima Call for Climate Action” comprises two main parts:

1. The Lima decision, including the paragraph above on INDCs and reiterating commitment to the 2015 deal – and that a draft negotiating text will be ready and circulated by May 2015; and
2. A 39-page Annex, compiling the elements for the draft negotiating text – full of many options for language throughout.

The Lima decision also states that a synthesis report on the INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC by 1 October 2015 will be prepared by 1 November 2015. The CBDR concept that has been the major discussion point in previous COPs is also re-introduced although it is also acknowledged that each country’s INDC must represent progression from its current actions.

In the end, there was no decision in Lima on the legal form of the 2015 Agreement of the final agreement whether it is under Article 15 of the Convention (an amendment to the Convention), Article 16 (an annex) or Article 17 (thus making it a protocol).

On a positive note, government pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) reached the targeted initial capitalisation of $10 billion. this, however, was not sufficient for many developing countries who called for more “predictable” and “adequate” forms of public financial contributions to 2020 and beyond. How this fund is now used will be critical to further negotiations and continued funding to reach the anticipated level of funding to be “mobilised” in 2020 of $100 billion.

Since COP18 in Doha, there have been very few governments that have actually ratified the Doha Amendment, which is the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Even the governments of the European Union have not ratified this amendment. There are three articles of the Kyoto Protocol that need amending for the second commitment period Kyoto Protocol; accounting (article 5), reporting (article 7) and review guidelines (article 8). These articles affect land use, land use change and forestry, emissions trading and market mechanisms, gases included and methods of calculation. Another outstanding issue is how to calculate the limitation on surplus assigned amount units (AAUs) held mainly by Ukraine and Russia that can be carried-over and their use for compliance towards commitments under the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. Neither of these issues (the latter known in the UNFCCC world as Article 3.7ter from the paragraph in the Doha amendment) were resolved in Lima with Russia and Belarus blocking the draft decision. This effectively means that there is so far no decision on how to calculate assigned amount units for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Discussions will continue at SBSTA42 in Bonn in June 2015.

The on-going process

The negotiations will re-start in at the ADP’s third meeting in Geneva 8-13 February 2015. By the end of the first quarter of 2015, many of the first INDCs will be submitted to the UNFCCC, and they will be published online. It is anticipated that the draft negotiating text will be circulated by May 2015, ahead of meetings in Bonn 3-14 June. Finally, a report by 1 November aggregating all INDCs received by 1 October will be prepared by the UNFCCC Secretariat, and then Paris COP 21 starts on 30 November. This will finish according the schedule on 11 December but, given the history of previous negotiations, who is to say when it will actually conclude.

In BusinessEurope's first reaction to the results of the climate negotiations in Lima. BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer said:

"The Lima Conference brings some extra clarity on the collective working method towards the Paris talks, but we've now much work to do to provide a successful global climate deal in December 2015. To make Paris a success, all negotiators must acknowledge that climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution and efforts from all. Europe has stepped forward with a very ambitious emissions reduction target. We need comparable efforts and willingness from China, the US, India and all other large carbon emitting economies. On the way to Paris, all negotiating governments should support the idea of a level playing field for global industrial production. Business not only has a responsibility to tackle climate change, it's key to the solution if the global framework gives confidence and security it needs to invest and innovate."

Has the conference in Lima moved governments any closer to the BusinessEurope expectations, that can be summarised as “finding sufficient political will to create a new global legally-binding climate regime, committing all major economies to the measurement, monitoring, reporting, control and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions under the UNFCCC in 2015” and, “ developing and adopting decisions that clarify the scope and form of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that will provide the basis for the adoption of a comprehensive international climate change agreement in 2015 for entry into force by 2020? Probably not, but it has enabled governments to understand the hurdles that they must overcome to meet such expectations in Paris in December 2015

Last updated: 2 August 2016