Good thing about Lima talks

Expectations from the climate talks, attended by more than 190 countries, in Lima, to negotiate the way forward to post-2020 climate agreement, were buoyed by the joint US-China announcement on their mitigation targets and financial pledges to the green climate fund. The US announced to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas emissions by up to 26 per cent to 28 per cent below the 2005 level by 2025; China took on to peak emissions on or before the year 2030.

Major industrialised countries had also announced a total of little less than $10 billion to green climate fund. But, as it is symptomatic of international negotiations, some parties are satisfied as well as disappointed with the outcome. The speeches made by the heads of the delegations of countries at the closing plenary of Conference of the Parties bear testimony to that.

In the context of climate change, where clear and strong signals for immediate action is necessary, such a dual reaction of most of the countries adds up to a collective acceptance that the process did not deliver what was expected from it. On mitigation, three components were expected from Lima. First, a negotiating text that would form the basis of deliberations on the agreement in Paris next year; second, a roadmap on long-term finance; and third, a road map to bridge the pre-2020 emission gap.

The COP did deliver a negotiating text. However, after the US-China joint statement, many had believed that the most critical issue of differentiation in burden-sharing would be much more sorted. It is not. The text annexed to the Lima Call for Climate Action merely lists all proposals made by countries on the elements of the Paris agreement. Options such as 'major economies to take on quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets/commitments' are still prominent, even though the Chinese announcement sets the yardstick for all other developing countries. Among the options, the principle of 'respective capabilities' is either substituted with 'capacities' or supplemented with it, further diluting the equity imperatives.

Moreover, one cannot ignore to notice that, wherever multiple options are listed in the negotiating text, the first option listed is more often a developed country proposal, reflecting a developed country bias in the negotiating text from a communication psychology perspective. Yet, the chief negotiator for the US indicated in his statement during the closing plenary that the US would like to propose an 'alternative language' in subsequent negotiations. Of course, this also implies that all other countries can also propose an 'alternative language' during 2015. Is this procedural progress?

On long-term finance, the initial target of pledges up to $10 billion for the green climate fund has been met. But a substantially large share of this was already achieved before the COP started. The key issues on finance were related to roadmaps to scale up the financial contributions to meet the Copenhagen pledge of developed countries of providing $100 billion per year by 2020 and to increase it beyond 2020. The COP outcome has little substantial to say on these questions. Considering that the achievement of $10 billion mark of Global Certification Forum also includes contributions from some developing countries, and that the COP decision 'requests' instead of 'decides' that at least 50 per cent of the pledges are realised by April 2015, the outcome on finance has been far below the needs.

The third component - bridging the ambition gap till 2020 - was overshadowed by over-hyped announcements for post-2020 period by some countries was. Despite a reference to the need of global emissions peaking in or before 2020 in order to stay within the two degree target, the absence of a roadmap to increase mitigation efforts, leaves a blank spot.

The statement by Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar described the outcome as the best that could be achieved under the circumstances. India has reasons to feel 'satisfied' as it was also expected that the pressure would be on India to follow suit after the joint US-China announcement and concede on its long standing demands on equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, which India did not concede to.

Another reason for India to feel satisfied is the progress on adaptation. In principle, adaptation has been given equal priority as mitigation. In fact the Lima work programme on gender, which gives primary emphasis on gender and mitigation, opens up new avenues of integrating adaptation into mitigation actions through the lens of gender. However, the nature of decision is exploratory and would remain so for the next two years. A similar treatment has been given to the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage, by continuing the decision of establishing an executive committee. Adaptation is likely to receive increased financial support following the decision to give equal share of support from Global Certification Forum to adaptation and mitigation.