The 2014 edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Lima, Peru from December 1st-12th. This was the 10th session of the Meeting of the Parties from the signing of the Kyoto protocol (1997), and the 20th edition of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 Rio de Janeiro conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as the first “Earth Summit”.
This meeting has been subject of high expectations, because in November the United States and China, the two greatest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting nations, reached an agreement to cut their carbon emissions and tackle the climate change.
2014 Lima Climate Change Conference
The purpose of the Lima Conference was to negotiate a text to succeed the Kyoto protocol, which should be finalized at the 2015 Conference, in Paris, and will be in force from 2020. The goal is to achieve a global climate agreement between all countries to lower greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will keep the expected rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature below 2°C, in order to avoid the worst climate change impacts.
The Climate Change Issue
The global warming, and consequently the climate change issue is of high concern to countries and individuals as it can impact the health of our planet. Indeed, these rising of temperatures are likely responsible for:
- rising sea levels
- more frequent and longer heat waves
- longer and broader monsoons occurring in more areas
- more rainfall in wet tropical regions
- more floods
Controlling global warming is important in avoiding natural calamities and allowing ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change. This ensures that food production is not threatened and enables sustainable economic development.
“Man made” climate change is mainly due to GHG emissions, which have significantly risen over time and are high contributors to the temperature increases.
According to the European Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), GHG and its impacts on global warming are mainly due to human behaviors. The behaviors include:
- Carbon Dioxide (63%): created by fossil fuels
- Methane (19%): created by livestock farming
- Flourinated gases (12%): used in refrigerators, electronics, etc.
- Nitrous Oxide (6%): made from nitrogen fertilizers, fossil fuels and some industrial processes
As shown in the picture above, the combined share of GHG emission produced by the US (13%), China (22%), the EU (11%), Russia (5%) and India (5%), was little above half of the total. This fact alone is enough to highlight how a global agreement is the only way to incisively tackle climate change, and highlights the importance of the negotiations held during the Climate Change Conference.
Results of the Lima Conference
The 194 countries attending the Lima Climate Conference reached an agreement on December 14th. The output of the convention has been the “Lima Call for Climate Action”, a 43 page document which includes the key decisions that, according to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will pave the way for the adoption of a universal and meaningful agreement in 2015.
This agreement will have to “reflect the differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” of each nation, and developed countries will have to provide financial support to “vulnerable” developing nations. The text also encourages all parties to implement education and public awareness programs on climate change, as they are a key element in successfully addressing this issue. Countries decided that they will have to set their own national targets, which has to be beyond their current commitments, in order to use them as the basic building blocks for the Paris agreement.
During the Lima Conference, countries also pledged nearly $10 billion US for the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund, which will provide financing for projects to address climate change in developing countries. Despite the optimism shown by UN members, some environmental groups criticized the Lima agreement. Sam Smith, WWF chief of climate policy said: “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.”
However, this deal represents a common determination to solve the problem, as praised by the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres who said: “With this COP and moving on to Paris, we cement the fact that we will address climate change.”
Therefore, despite the thought that the Lima agreement is probably not tight enough, its importance should not be minimized because it has the merit to place countries in a better position to reach a global agreement in Paris.