Day Three: On The Fringes With The Chief Negotiator


Christiana Figueres is the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Big title, big job. Simply put, she will be responsible for co-ordinating and crafting the outcome of the COP20 gathering in Lima. Ms Figueres is no stranger to the climate change debate. Prior to her UN role, for 11 years she led the Costa Rican climate negotiating team.

Yesterday she addressed a gathering of legislators from across the world at a fringe meeting organised by environmental NGO GLOBE. I will come to what she said in a moment but it is worth reporting that the most striking feature of her presentation was her optimism. Faced with the daunting task of paving the way to a global emissions reduction deal in Paris next year, Figueres appeared remarkably relaxed and unfazed by the challenge. She chivvied along the lawmakers in the room, posing a series of questions which solicited some unexpected results. On the Kyoto Protocols she asked how many delegates were aware of whether their country had ratified the agreement.

Cue shuffling of feet and wandering of eyes by those from outside the EU. After a good bollocking, which set the tone for the rest of her speech, she stressed that the binding targets envisaged within the protocols are the bare minimum needed to achieve a global deal. The protocols need ratifying, and double quick was her clear message. Figueres focused on two themes - targets and money. On financing, she admitted that the Green Climate Fund, integral to supporting developing countries adapt and mitigate the consequences of climate change, was for from ready for action. She stated that although there was already $9.25 billion in the pot, money was only part of the challenge; transparency of spend, governance, fairness were all issues yet to be fully addressed.

She also reminded the room that the negotiating text envisages an annual fund of $100 billion by 2020. She was also candid and said that the fund had yet to inspire action from developing nations. Figueres spoke of the growing debate between financing projects for climate mitigation (technological change to reduce emissions) and climate adaptation (helping countries cope with the effects of climate change). Adaptation is generally popular with developing nations since it builds things that are needed, flood defence for example. Mitigation is popular with developed nations since developed nations are in a better position to benefit from it. Ms Figueres was adamant that both mitigation and adaptation are equally important, describing adaptation measures as the ‘Cinderella of the debate, who will go to the ball’. On targets - Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in the COP20 jargon - Figueres admitted that despite the expectations created by the recent US-China deal, the Lima COP20 discussions were unlikely to result in clear agreed targets.

She outlined the timetable by which such targets could and should emerge. Out of Lima an agreed text will emerge. This will be revised in March 2015 to incorporate the INDCS indicated by the various member states. The revised agreement will then be translated into the six working languages of the UN, before transmission to all the states for an consultation on the different national commitments.

This consultation will conclude in June and will be followed by a second appraisal period, which will conclude in October. Finally out of all of this will emerge the draft text for the December Paris negotiations. A whole lot of talking yet to come, with some already speculating that it may be just too big a challenge to meet.