Enthusiasm Ends with a Sigh of Relief

By Pat Carlson
Eagle Forum Environmental Chairman

December 15, 2014

The latest international climate change conference held in Lima, Peru from December 1-12, 2014 started with great enthusiasm but ended in a frustrated sigh of relief producing the 43-page Lima Call for Climate Action.

The unprecedented pre-conference agreement between the U.S. and China gave new life to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP20) but late in the second week, negotiations became deadlocked between developed and developing nations.

Former non-government Organization (NGO) attendee to the original UNFCCC in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and practicing environmental lawyer COP20 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, determined to have a successful conclusion to his conference, kept delegates hostage until an agreement was reached.  The conference went 36 hours overtime ending in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

The main points disputed besides finance and whether the agreement should be binding or not, were the reports to be filed by nations to the UNFCCC in March 2015 referred to as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). A major contention was what would be included in these reports as to mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. Each of these complicated concepts deals with a point in time. Mitigation begins now with technology transfer along with finance for projects to build infrastructure meant to lessen the impacts of climate change into the future. Adaptation looks back in time to repair damage already done to infrastructure by climate change. Loss and damage is a forever insurance policy compensating persons and countries for any damage done by extreme weather for the rest of time.

The developed nations want these reports to include only mitigation. The developing nations want the reports to include all three especially loss and damage. If adaptation and mitigation have already been applied to an area and knowing weather extremes happen repeatedly and unexpectedly, developing countries want guaranteed compensation for damages done forever into the future.

The developed nations also wanted a new definition of the equity principle “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CDRs), since many developing nations’ economies have improved dramatically (like China and India) since the principle’s origins. In 1992 in Rio, the UNFCCC divided countries into two distinct categories, Annex I and Annex II (developed) and non-Annex (developing), those who committed the crime and the victims. There was some movement on this in the new agreement with the addition to the CDR principle of “in light of different national circumstances.”

The Lima Call for Action:

  • Keeps goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees
  • Contains reference to ensuring the world has net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Doesn’t clarify whether the Paris 2015 agreement will be legally binding
  • Offers no new assurances on climate finance
  • Leaves options open regarding loss and damage
  • Calls for climate change to be incorporated in curricula for schools

During the last two days of the conference attendees heard from overweight, puffy-eyed Al Gore giving a speech saying, “We are designing the future of humankind here in Lima and then Paris” and later in the afternoon he whipped out his famous PowerPoint presentation. The same afternoon Secretary of State, John Kerry held a press conference with his tired reframe of what is the worst that can happen if he’s wrong about global warming and transformations are made to our energy and economy; it will create “a lot of new jobs, kick our economies into gear.” We’ll have “healthier people. Have a more secure world.” But if the skeptics are wrong? “Catastrophe.”

The very last day, a group of professors from the University of California held a press conference entitled “What Now for Climate Justice.” John Foran, Professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, suggested the root problem is not climate change but capitalism. He says capitalism cannot co-exist with a zero-emissions based economy. He is calling for a movement against capitalism called “ecosocialism.” Is it any wonder young people in America are so indoctrinated?

The last-minute agreement in Lima moves the ball forward to Paris 2015 but what if? If Paris produces a binding agreement, the Obama administration is adamant it will not sign on to anything that will have to be submitted to Congress. They want a non-binding agreement. If the U.S. is not part of an agreement, China certainly will not sign on. So here we are with the two largest emitters immoveable again. Good news!