The 20th Conference of the Parties – COP 20 – opened yesterday in Lima, Peru. The meeting builds on the work done over the past 5 years in the aftermath of the disappointing Copenhagen Accord of COP 15 in Copenhagen. The major hurdles of building an international post-Kyoto Protocol climate treaty, primarily the issues between developing and developed countries, scuttled any real progress in 2009 (I saw it with my own eyes). Since then there has been halting but significant headway made in the international arena. most notably the Durban Platform, which set a framework to include all parties, or countries, in a legally binding international treaty.
Drafting that agreement is the principal goal at Lima, hopefully leading to an internationally binding treaty to be signed at COP 21 next year in Paris, set to go into force in 2020. There is a general sense of optimism at the outset of the talks in Lima, especially after the diplomatic breakthrough announced a few weeks ago between the U.S. and China.
Is a two degree limit now beyond reach?
Amid the optimism, however, is the sense that already too much time has been lost to contain global warming within the 2 degree Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) limit beyond which the consequences of climate change are expected to become increasingly severe. A world beyond 3.6 degrees F of warming is all but assured unless aggressive and immediate action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Even with the optimism and hope expressed at the start of COP 20, it seems unlikely that the world community can move fast enough. The best possible outcome in Lima and Paris won’t be sufficient. Adaptation to a harsher world for our children, grandchildren and beyond is the path on which we now must cautiously step. The question now is how bad will we let it get?
And that gives all the more reason for the negotiators at Lima to make subatantive progress toward a final climate treaty next year in Paris.
“What’s already baked in are substantial changes to ecosystems, large-scale transformations,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and a member of the UNFCCC, noting losses of coral reef systems, ice sheets, and lowering crop yields.
Without an international agreement “things could get a lot worse,” Oppenheimer said. On a business as usual trajectory, global average temperatures could rise by as much as 10 degrees F by 2100. The toll on humanity and the world economy at such an amount of warming is truly stark. At 3.6 degrees we will see significant impact, beyond that threshold, says Oppenheimer, the aggregate cost “to the global economy — rich countries as well as poor countries — rises rapidly.”
On the agenda at COP 20
The video below from Devex outlines key points of negotiation in the coming two week in Lima.
- Long term targets for adaptation and mitigation
- Support for developing countries and the Green Climate Fund
- Deforestation and REDD+
- Information sharing before COP 21
- Process of compliance and consequences of non-compliance