COP20: Progress for Climate or All Talk and No Action?

Image courtesy of unep.org

Image courtesy of unep.org


The 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP20, in Lima, Peru has concluded.  Now the question is, did the world make any progress?

The Lima Call for Climate Action documents the agreements made at the COP20 convention (click here for the full text).

Here are a few positive results, and some not-so-impressive outcomes from this year’s summit:

Encouraging Developments:

An agreement was reached.
Delegates at COP20 did approve an agreement about how countries can confront climate change problems. In the shortest terms possible, the UN assigned responsibility for mitigating carbon emissions to all countries, regardless of economic standing.

While the document is not as game-changing as many environmental groups had hoped, it’s still an improvement in international cooperation.

No more official distinction between “rich” and “poor” nations.
Historically, climate talks urged only wealthy nations to curb emissions, while allowing developing nations to prioritize economics and make use of cheap fuel. This year there were officially no divisions noted in the agreement document, but it did concede that different “national circumstances” will factor into each nation’s responsibilities. So, while countries aren’t officially categorized, they are still able to consider “national circumstances.”

Even so, the language isn’t unreasonable. As economies grow, clean energy and low emissions should be built right into the plans from the start. The language of the new agreement will hopefully urge growing economies to skip right over fossil fuels as an energy source, and invest in sustainable technologies.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) raised ten billion dollars!
Pledges made at COP20 pushed the GCF’s grand total just beyond its fundraising goal of $10 billion. The fund raised $10.14 billion to fight climate change worldwide.


Discouraging Outcomes:

Negotiations were long and often heated.
Clearly, there is still more work to be done in order for countries to work together on climate. That’s a bad sign if the world is to act quickly and solve this problem, instead of simply talking about it.

The Agreement is still too lax.
Even though an agreement document was created, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Environment Minister of Peru, said, “As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties.”

The major shortcoming in the document is the exception for “national circumstances” that replaces the categorization of countries by wealth. Perhaps this is a symbolic concession made to developing countries, as the BBC suggests, but it leaves too much room for interpretation, and it could be used as a way to circumvent curbing emissions altogether.

Many states regard Lima as a mere stepping stone to the 2015 Paris summit.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris next year. Many delegates at COP20 have expressed opinions that the real progress will be made then. UK climate change minister Ed Davey was quoted saying, “That’s when the real deal has to be done.”

Minister Davey, there is no time like the present to get the “real deal” done.

So, while the COP20 did not solve the world’s problems, it did at least make fixing climate change everyone’s problem.  Will everyone step-up and do their part to fix it? As usual, we’ll have to wait for more negotiations to find out.



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