Earlier this month, over 190 United Nations (UN) Member States gathered in Lima, Peru to discuss preparations for a new international agreement on climate change, scheduled to be finalized in late 2015 in Paris, France. [UNFCCC: Lima Call] Having reached conclusions on the core elements of the new agreement, the ground rules for States’ individual commitments, and the importance of adapting to a warming climate in addition to limiting carbon emissions, the Lima Climate Change Conference is considered by some to have “put [the] world on track to Paris 2015.” [UNFCCC: Lima Call] Some environmental groups, however, have voiced concern that the conference did not yield meaningful, practical advances. [BBC] While States recommitted to developing a universal, legal agreement on climate change, they did not set specific targets or deadlines to which States must adhere; rather, the envisioned framework allows each State to define its own commitment to address emissions and climate change. [Washington Post]
Lima Climate Change Conference
The Lima Climate Change Conference served as the setting for the yearly meetings of two treaty-based bodies charged with overseeing the implementation of their respective climate change agreements: the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) to the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol). The COP held its 20th session in Lima; the CMP held its 10th session there. Both bodies will reconvene in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015 for their 21st and 11th sessions, respectively, when they are expected to finalize a universal, legally binding agreement on climate change that will come into effect in 2020. [UNFCCC: Lima Call] See UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (adopted 9 May 1992, entered into force 21 March 1994) 1771 U.N.T.S. 107; Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (adopted 11 December 1997, entered into force 16 February 2005) 2303 U.N.T.S. 148 (Kyoto Protocol).
Several noteworthy advancements were made in the two-weeks-long Conference, discussed below.
Developments Toward a Binding Agreement
In 2011, the COP established the ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, and tasked the ad hoc Working Group with creating a “blueprint for a fresh universal, legal agreement” to address climate change in the years beyond 2020. [UN: Climate Change] The agreement is to be completed no later than 2015, so that it can be adopted at the 21st session of the COP. See UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (Decision 1/CP.17), FCCC/CP/2011/9/Add.1, 11 December 2011, para. 4.
During the Lima Climate Change Conference, the COP decided to further the advancement of the Durban Platform by calling for the ad hoc Working Group to “intensify its work, with a view to making available a negotiating text” for the universal, legal agreement by May 2015. The COP also requested the ad hoc Working Group to make recommendations to the COP at its 21st session regarding how to advance the “technical examination process, including the periodic assessment of the technical expert meetings.” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, Further advancing the Durban Platform (Draft Decision –CP.XX), FCCC/CP/2014/L.14, paras. 1, 6. The COP acknowledged the progress made in Lima toward a draft text and reiterated “its commitment to reaching an ambitious agreement in 2015.” Id. at paras. 3, 5.
COP Agrees on “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”
Another significant development at the Lima Climate Change Conference was the setting of ground rules for States’ climate change commitments, in advance of the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris. States’ pledges to take certain actions on carbon emissions and climate change, referred to as “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs), will form “the foundation for climate action post 2020,” when the new international agreement will come into effect. [UNFCCC: Lima Call]
To that end, the COP invited States Parties to communicate their INDCs “well in advance of” the COP’s 21st session or, if they are ready to do so, by the first quarter of 2015. UNFCCC-COP, Further advancing the Durban Platform, para. 13. Additionally, States’ INDCs should go further than States parties’ current climate change commitments. Id. at para. 10. The agreement also calls for the secretariat of the UNFCCC to prepare “a synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the intended nationally determined contributions” by November 1, 2015. Id. at para. 16(b).
The COP requested the States’ INDCs be communicated “in a manner that facilitates the clarity, transparency and understanding of the [INDCs].” Id. at para. 13. The INDCs may include:
- quantifiable information on a reference point, such as a base year;
- time frames and/or periods for implementation;
- scope and coverage of the INDCs;
- planning processes;
- assumptions and methodological approaches; and
- how each State party’s INDC is “fair and ambitious, in light of national circumstances,” and how it contributes to achieving the UNFCCC’s core objectives.
Id. at para. 14.
Other Calls for State Action
The COP’s agreement included several additional requests for action by States parties. It called for:
- developed nations to “provide and mobilize enhanced financial support” to developing nations – particularly nations that are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change – for the purpose of taking “ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions”;
- ratify and implement the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol; and
- communicate their undertakings in “adaptation planning,” or else featuring their approach to adaptation planning in their INDCs.
Id. at paras. 4, 12, 17.
Green Climate Fund
The Green Climate Fund, a financial mechanism operating under the COP’s guidance and established to “channel … new, additional, adequate and predictable financial resources to developing countries,” announced on December 9 that recent pledges from the governments of Australia and Belgium pushed the Fund past the US$ 10 billion threshold. [UNFCCC: Green Climate Fund] Pledging AUD $200 million and EUR 51.7 million respectively, Australia and Belgium have brought the total pledges of contributions to the Fund to approximately US$ 10.14 billion. “[T]hrough the Green Climate Fund, we are helping developing countries to take urgent actions to also ensure sustainability of their economic growth path,” stated Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo. [UNFCCC: Green Climate Fund]
To date, 70 developing nations have appointed national authorities to act as the governmental counterpart of the Fund, and 27 have requested support from the Fund. For information on the States that have pledged to contribute to the Fund and the conditions attached to their pledges, see the analysis blog Carbon Brief.
Public Response to the Lima Climate Conference
Responses to the outcomes achieved at the Lima Climate Change Conference have been mixed. While some delegates “le[ft] Lima on a fresh wave of positivity towards Paris with a range of key decisions agreed and action-agendas launched,” others were not so optimistic. [UNFCCC: Lima Call] For example, Samantha Smith, chief of climate policy at the environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF), stated, “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.” [BBC]
A major hurdle has been agreeing on how to fairly allocate the burden of pledges among rich and poor, and developed and developing nations. Some developing nations, for instance, have accused wealthier countries of not paying their fair share and ignoring their role in climate change. [BBC] Developed nations, on the other hand, have made calls similar to that of the United States, which proposes that countries experiencing rapidly growing economies should control their increasing emissions. [Reuters]
Thus, a key provision in the agreement reached at the Lima Climate Conference provides for a future agreement “that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.” UNFCCC-COP, Further advancing the Durban Platform, para. 3. In spite of this attempt at finding a middle ground, “[m]uch remains to be done in Paris next year,” observed French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. [Reuters]
Major Milestones in the International Effort to Address Climate Change
In 1992, UN Member States adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere so that ecosystems can adapt naturally to climate change, food production is not threatened, and national economies can develop in a sustainable manner. UNFCCC art. 2. There are 196 States Parties to the UNFCCC.
In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol) was adopted to “strengthen the global response to climate change.” [UNFCCC: Background] There are 192 States Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the first commitment period aimed to reduce States Parties’ overall greenhouse gas emissions by “at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels” in the years from 2008 to 2012. Kyoto Protocol art. 3(1). Its second commitment period began in January 2013 and will end in 2020. [UNFCCC: Background]
In 2001, at its 7th session, the COP adopted a series of decisions detailing the rules for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, termed the Marrakesh Accords. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, Report of the Conference of the Parties on its Seventh Session, Held at Marrakesh from 29 October to 10 November 2001, UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2001/13/Add., 10 November 2001. The Marrakesh Accords also established new funding sources and a framework for transferring technology. [UN: Climate Change]
In December 2011, the COP established the ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action to “develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the [UNFCCC] applicable to all Parties.” [UNFCCC: Bodies] The work of the ad hoc Working Group is to be completed “no later than 2015.” UNFCCC-COP, Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced, para. 4.
In 2012, the CMP adopted the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which requires States Parties to further reduce their aggregate emissions and increase the level of their “mitigation ambition.” The Doha Amendment will enter into force once 144 States Parties to the Kyoto Protocol have submitted instruments of acceptance. To date, 21 States have done so. Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol (adopted 8 December 2012, not yet in force) C.B.718.2012 Treaties-XXVII.7.c.