united nations
December 15, 2014

Modest Gains Made In Latest UN Climate Summit Agreement

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

UN climate negotiators had to go into overtime to reach a climate agreement, ending their extended session with an agreement that for the first time requires action from developing countries as well as industrial nations.

The agreement was announced early Sunday morning following 11 days of negotiations involving representatives from over 200 countries, according to USA Today and Washington Post reports. The talks, which were described as “often rancorous,” went more than 24 hours past their deadline as the delegates worked towards a comprehensive climate treaty.

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post described the gains as “modest,” and said that many of the requirements were “repeatedly watered down” in order to convince over 190 countries to sign off on the agreement. However, it also was said to bring the world one step closer to a global treaty, which will be finalized during next year’s meeting in Paris.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (center right) speaks with Ollanta Humala (center left), President of Peru, at the opening of the Lima Climate Action High-level Dialogue. This year's Climate Change Conference in Lima is the twentieth session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP20). Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

“Under the agreement, each country will have to submit early next year a detailed plan for addressing carbon emissions,” Warrick said. “But a series of compromises Friday and Saturday stripped away specific requirements for cutting pollution and left no provisions for outside verification to ensure that the plans are carried out. The softened language was denounced by environmental groups as unacceptably weak.”

According to BBC News, the final draft of the document restored a promise to poorer nations that a “loss and damage” program would be established to help they cope with the financial ramifications of rising global temperature. However, instead of saying that countries “shall” demonstrate how they intend to meet their designated emissions target, it said that those nations “may” do so.

In addition, the document calls for an “ambitious agreement” in 2015 that reflects “differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” of each nation; for developed countries to provide financial support to “vulnerable” developing nations; for national pledges to be submitted by the first quarter of 2015 by those states “ready to do so”; and for countries to set targets that go beyond their “current undertaking,” the British news agency noted.

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, told BBC that the agreement “went from weak to weaker to weakest and it's very weak indeed,” while Friends of the Earth International chairperson Jagoda Munic said concerns over the lack of “a fair and ambitious outcome” had been proven "tragically accurate.”

However, according to USA Today, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru's environment minister and the conference president, and Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate official, proclaimed the talks a success. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius added that “a lot of good work was done in Lima, but it left at least a little work to be done in Paris.”

Among the issues still to be resolved include demands from poorer nations for more financial assistance from wealthier countries to help them reduce emissions, according to Emily Godsen of The Telegraph. Rich countries had previously promised a vague goal of mobilizing $100 billion of funds for poor nations starting in the year 2020, but Godsen said that the program has not been well defined which led poorer nations to accuse their wealthier counterparts of not pulling their weight.

“The biggest thing that is really, really unresolved is the money,” Michael Jacobs, visiting professor at the LSE’s Grantham climate research institute, told The Telegraph. “The developed countries have got to find some way of showing they can provide the $100bn they promised, and at least some financial contribution post-2020. This is hard: this is a core demand of the developing countries but the hardest things for the developed countries, both because they don’t feel they have got so much money but also because it’s hard to budget ahead.”

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