COP20 Climate Conference - Do we have the makings of a Deal?


High Noon

The crowds have thinned at the COP20 gathering in Lima.  At the beginning of the week you couldn’t move for protestors, exhibitors, parliamentarians, government ministers, officials and unofficials, green folks, John Kerry, Segolene Royal, and a range of fellow travellers.  Now, they all seem to have gone.  Despite the fact that no agreement is expected until the wee small hours, it feels a bit like Elvis has left the building.

So thank goodness for Christiana Figueres, the UN Chief Negotiator who continues to liven up proceedings.  Indefatigable, sparky, almost certainly able to light up a power grid by dint of personality alone, she just briefed our Parliamentary delegation.  So what’s happening?

Well, the text is now down to four pages, with three pages of Annexes.  No mean feat. Whether the four pages are enough to gain the support of the parties present remains to be seen.  No agreement is expected until the wee small hours of Saturday morning Lima time, so high noon in Scotland.

Kyoto first

Figueres was clear that the first step toward an agreement in Paris must be the ratification of the Doha amendment of the Kyoto Protocal, which includes new commitments for the developed world, a revised list of greenhouse gases to be reported upon and a series of accounting rules for measuring and comparing commitments.  Figueres stated that EU ratification was critical.  If the EU ratifies then it will be a lever with which to motivate other countries.  If the EU does not ratify then it is a setback.  The current sticking point in the EU of course is the buy-in from Eastern European member states, as yet unconvinced by the new reporting requirements. Worth noting that last year, China became the most important player to commit to ratification (although it has not yet ratified).

What’s China up to?

Figueres applauded the endeavours of China, noting that progress has been made in seeking to bring carbon emissions under control. China loves 5 year plans, and its climate commitments are detailed in the most current incarnation.  Importantly, the application of a version of the principle of CBDR (Common but Differentiated Responsibilities) across China’s provinces is beginning to bear fruit (see the jargon busting blog for what this means).

Figueres also declared that the great efforts of China in the field of climate change had absolutely nothing to do with a belief in the dangers of global warming but rather a concern for the health of its people, and perhaps more importantly a belief that by getting into renewables early they can gain an economic advantage. She didn’t mind the whys and wherefores, just the commitment.

In black and white

Anyway, back to the negotiating document.  All non-Lima priorities are being removed from the text, slimming down the bloat in the process. There will be time to come back to those during 2015.  She confessed that the negotiators had been a trifle over optimistic in their early ambitions for agreement.

There were 4 key areas still to be addressed, all of them political not technical, and each currently with three options on the table.  They relate to (i) the setting of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs); (ii) the scope of the agreement with relation to the balance between mitigation (developed world preference) and adaptation (developing world preference); (iii) the review and revision procedure for the INDCs in advance of Paris; and (iv) closing the 2020 gap to maintain momentum toward limiting global temperature rise to 2oC.

The big concession so far is the elimination of the ‘ex-ante’ review much beloved of the EU.  This is the process whereby states’ INDCs are peer reviewed to determine whether they are adequate.  A number of countries led by India & China objected vehemently to this erosion of sovereignty.  So it’s out.  Figueres was of the view that peer pressure amongst states may actually achieve the same results anyway.

Adaptation is likely to feature more prominently than the EU would like, and less prominently than most developing nations would like.  Whether it is 50/50 as Figueres forecast at the beginning of the week is still to be agreed.

Figueres also had something to say on financing.  The Green Climate Fund is now fully capitalised at $10bn.  However, it is envisaged that $100bn a year is needed.  How do you grow the fund ten fold?  Well, the answer relates to onions, or at least to an onion diagram.  (see the attached figure).

Anyway, I am typing this outside and my computer is about to go on fire.  So i am off to find shade and intel.

Here is a link to an diagram known as the Onion, which shows how action on Climate Change is financed.