CCL from COP20: Lima Accord for Climate Action Approved

CCL report from COP20: Lima Accord for Climate Action Approved

By Joe Robertson

At 1:22 am, on December 14, 2014, the Closing Plenary session of the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) approved the draft decision of the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). That document now becomes the Lima Accord for Climate Action. The Lima Accord is the basis for the work that will be done throughout 2015, leading up to the COP21 next December in Paris, where a global climate action pact including nationally-determined commitments is to be agreed.

A teary-eyed Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Peru’s Environment Minister and President of the COP20, thanked the 195 national delegations for their hard work and collaboration. Calling it an obligation of “our position as decision-makers that we seek to work for the most vulnerable”, he said he woke up this morning, after last night’s tense all-nighter, determined that the COP20 fulfill that responsibility to the world.

Lima accordOne after another, delegations thanked Pulgar Vidal for his hard work, honorable leadership, and good spirit. One after another, delegations thanked the people of Peru for their warm and uncommon hospitality. The work of pulling together a document co-produced by 195 countries, working through multilateral blocs, and also seeking to serve both global interest and domestic interest, is not easy.

On Friday evening, not having reached agreement on the draft decision from the ADP, the Plenary was adjourned for immediate further consultation. An announcement was to be made at 10:00 pm, but was pushed back to 11:30. It was announced the session would reconvene at 1:00 am. In fact, the Plenary reconvened at nearly 2:30 am, after significant further consultation, with revisions to the draft text.

With no time to review the draft text, nations voiced their protest that they were being asked to immediately review and approve a new document. Around 3:30 am, the decision was made to adjourn till 10:00 am Saturday morning. Delegates for the Least Developed Countries group (LDC) and other negotiating blocs and country teams stayed at the venue through the night, sifting through and suggesting language, planning for the next day’s plenary sessions and negotiations. More than one participant was literally reviewing the document while falling asleep, after a day of negotiations that ran to more than 20 hours. Some went back to their hotels, got between 20 minutes and 3 hours of sleep, and returned to the venue for the morning session.

There was deep frustration among developing nations about the phrase “loss and damage” being taken out of the text. The text also avoided reference to “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR), a guiding principle of the UNFCCC process, written into the Convention itself. The perception was that without that phrasing, the Lima document would effectively alter the entire UNFCCC negotiating process in ways that developing countries could not afford to accept.

There were also objections raised to “new language” referring to “Parties willing” or “Parties able”, suggesting this would weaken the meaning of CBDR or differentiation, or would blur the lines between the “Annex” divisions of countries, a reference to where they were listed in the original UNFCCC treaty, according to state of development and level of responsibility for global excess greenhouse gas emissions.

With no consensus on the draft text, and serious concerns about what was being left out, the Plenary was again suspended for immediate further consultations. COP President Pulgar Vidal announced he would meet with every nation, through the respective negotiating blocs (the LDC, the Like-Minded Developing Countries, the G77, the African Group and others), then carefully integrate their concerns into a final draft text, to be approved at an evening Plenary session.

By 8:30 pm, there was still no word as to when the Plenary would reconvene. Around 9:00 pm, the new meeting time had been posted to the official schedule for the COP20: COP and CMP resumed closing plenaries 23:00 Room: E – Lima. The new text was distributed, and then the Plenary was suspended for an hour, so participants would have an opportunity to review the text and consult with their teams and with their respective governments back home.

The first immediately noticeable change from the 2:30 am draft of the night before and the new draft was the restoration of language regarding “Loss and Damage”, specifically framing the Lima Accord as “progress … towards the implementation of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts.”

While some observers are critical of the final Accord, the mood in the room was emotional and upbeat. Some important breakthroughs were achieved: For the first time, the UNFCCC process has yielded a decision document that cites 1.5°C as an option for the target maximum global average temperature increase from pre-industrial levels. This is significant, because science suggests going beyond 1.5°C would leave small islands seriously vulnerable to rising seas.

Mya Raina Lal, the only representative of Pacific island youth at the COP20, highlighted the new target’s importance, after the Accord had been formally approved. She called on all present to recognize that failure to follow through on bold actions to keep global average temperature increase to below 1.5°C would leave her people with no territory. She raised emotions still further when she ended her remarks by saying: “We are going to survive. Will you help us?”

The text of the Lima Accord also adds to mitigation priorities generally “opportunities with high mitigation potential, including those with adaptation, health and sustainable development co-benefits,” and specifies “the period 2015-2020” for initiating such actions. Setting the time-frame provides clarity about the need of other nations to begin responding sooner, rather than later, and is intended to motivate immediate adoption of mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development strategies.

The Lima Accord also calls for “meaningful and regular” consultation with civil society, women, youth, indigenous peoples, and with “subnational authorities” that are actively engaged in confronting climate impacts or implementing policies that mitigate climate risk, cost, and harm. By setting a standard for stakeholder engagement, the Lima Accord opens the possibility of building direct citizen engagement into the policy process, not only locally, but globally, with the intention of reducing inequities and driving improved policy choices.

The process was long, complicated, and built around the goal of including everyone’s needs and concerns. Compromise was required, came in fits, starts, and reversals, and was at times agonizing. One prominent adviser to developing countries said to many people on Saturday morning of the overnight draft that “It sucks; we are going backwards.” By the time the Lima Accord was approved, and after many hours of meticulous negotiations, many of the concerns that drove that emotion had been addressed.

Many critics say the language remains too soft on these points, and does not guarantee assistance or leadership from the big industrial economies. Throughout, there have been concerns that changes to the text might leave vital priorities out of future agreements, or that whole blocs of nations might be significantly disadvantaged by choices regarding the language. But the final final language provides reason for hope and a clear direction for the negotiations throughout 2015. Not only were Loss and Damage and Differentiated Responsibility restored to the text, language was changed to ensure these principles were not circumvented elsewhere.

The Accord “Decides that … all Parties shall address in a balanced manner, inter alia, mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building, and transparency of action and support”… That language provides a sound operational foundation for the expectation that nations with greater means (financial, productive, and technological) will support in a variety of ways the developing of robust low-carbon economies around the world.

The Lima Accord is a consensus decision of the COP (195 nations, with the added complexity of negotiating blocs, set up to stand firm on often opposing interests). It is the foundation for what will now be a global brainstorming and innovation effort, on a scale never before seen. Each nation is to offer an INDC, an intended nationally determined contribution to global climate response, by the end of March 2015. An INDC is a plan of action or roadmap that moves a country from its status quo market for energy production and consumption to a prosperous low-carbon economy.

The European Union treated the text as what it was designed to be—a platform for further coordinated action, and a living document—and dove right into directing next steps. In a brief intervention after approval of the Accord, the EU called for a new market mechanism to price carbon and drive economically efficient emissions reductions. The Elements annex (the 37-page document that includes options for implementation and suggested standards) calls for carbon pricing and suggests “market-wide” mitigation actions. We have our own idea, of course, for how that can build the foundation for a strong consensus agreement in Paris.

Over the next year, the Parties will add, subtract, and modify, negotiating more details, and haggling over connoted and extrapolated meanings. The INDC process will take center stage for much of 2015, as nations seek to build the efficiency of the wider response into their country strategies. The document will come to live and breathe, as an integral part of this global action to confront the devastating economic, social and ecological impacts of climate disruption.

We plan to make sure citizens and stakeholders are part of the process, expected to be present, consulted, welcomed, and given a say in how things play out.

Next stop: Geneva, in February of 2015.

Joe Robertson is Global Strategy Director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.