Day One: UN Climate Change Conference, Lima - Peru


It’s 6am on Saturday.  I have finally given up trying to sleep and have decided to embrace the jet lag.  So, some observations on dawn in Lima.  There is a lot of bird song, a veritable chorus of chatter. A contrast with Brussels and the mute pigeons.  Pre-dawn the climate is sultry; or do I mean the weather is sultry? Scots are unfamiliar with the concept of air-conditioning, rarely experiencing conditions that would demand it. However, it is now chugging in the background.

Word on the street is that Leonardo DiCaprio, self-declared ‘concerned citizen’ will be jetting in to Lima today to add a touch of glamour to the proceedings. Expect a tweeted selfie if i can get within a hundred yards.

The Lima gathering has been warming up for a couple of days. Shell’s chief climate adviser David Hone has likened the goings-on thus far to a game of chess, with players thinking several moves ahead, skirting current issues and readying themselves for the end game. At least its not like Monopoly…

A key strand of the negotiations will centre round the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, or ADP for short. (The UN does love its acronyms). This group is responsible for drafting the text for the next COP gathering in Paris, where the serious climate change agreement is expected.  Having waded through the text, I can thoroughly recommend not trying. It is dense, technical and jargon-heavy.  For the assiduous I attach a link at the bottom.  However, let me summarise:

On Mitigation, which covers technological and substitution-type measures to reduce carbon emissions, the negotiating text currently offers three destinations on the way  to a decarbonised globe: (i) achieve negative emissions by 2100; and/or (ii) achieve net zero emissions by 2050; or (iii) full decarbonisation by 2050.  Each of these routes is a challenge, given that the EU’s emissions continue to grow (and we are considered to be ahead of the curve).

On Adaption, which seeks measures to deal with the consequences of climate change (think flood defences, for example), the text outlines measures to address the problems in countries at the sharp end of climate change.  The Maldives by way of example would be drowned by a sea level rise of only 6 feet.  Here in Peru the marked shrinking (a fifth in 30 years) of one of the world’s largest glaciers is affecting farmers in the high Andes. The Green Climate Fund will be the principal resource to support adaptation measures. How much money is in the pot by the end of the week (and who gave it) will be a key measure of the success in the negotiations.

On Finance, two options are given: (i) the provision of $100bn in funds per year to address climate change (bear in mind the Green Climate Fund is expected to top out at only $10bn); or (ii) the provision of $0 post 2020.  So on paper the two options seem to be big bucks to deal with the problem, or no bucks.  Who commits to paying into this pot and how much, will be another measure of the success of Lima.

Let’s stick with finance for a moment longer. Australia bunged a spanner in the works yesterday by declaring that it will contribute no funds to the Green Climate Fund, rather it will finance climate mitigation and adaption measures only for its Pacific neighbours through the Australian aid budget.  Worth recalling that Australia’s PM, Tony Abbott, refused even to discuss climate at the recent G20 meeting in Brisbane.  However, Australia has put on record its support for binding emission reduction targets.

To bind or not to bind, will be a key question here in Lima, with the EU and the US already at loggerheads. The US want indicative targets. The EU is already committed to a binding targets of at least 40% by 2030.   I met the US chief climate change negotiator the other week, Todd Stern.  He is a canny operator, and he understand the challenges represented by the recent tremblement de terre in the US Congress. Let’s see who blinks first.

And finally, the COP20 is looking a little more diverse than in years gone by thanks to participation of indigenous people.  Last week talks took place on local land use and deforestation, with Brazilian projects held up as models for carbon retention within trees. In some parts of Latin America, indigenous people are responsible for the management of a third of the rainforest. Community leaders explained how they can utilise forests without clear-felling.  Sometimes the solutions are more straightforward than we imagine.

Anyway, now its time for breakfast. I’ll be blogging regularly so stay tuned for more.