Commentary

From Peru to Paris

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The road from Peru to Paris is littered with hazards and distractions, but round the bend there’s something worth the drive.

The backdrop to Lima was a series of announcements building political momentum towards a global deal in Paris. The United Nations’ Secretary General’s (UNSGs) Climate Summit, the watershed agreement between the US and China, the European Unions’ climate and energy package, and the $10 billion plus that was pledged to the Green Climate Fund all contributed to raising expectations for Lima.

But in order to understand Lima, it’s vital to get to grips with expectations for Paris. If successful, COP-21, hosted by the French, will accelerate the global decarbonisation and climate resilience endeavour. It should send a clear signal to those whose capital allocation decisions will shape our prosperity, that phasing out of fossil fuels is inevitable. In Paris, the emissions reductions put forward are unlikely to deliver an outright 2°C outcome; the temperature threshold all governments have agreed avoids unmanageable climate change. But it can set up the structures and systems so the current trajectories are at least consistent with 2°C. Paris could be a milestone to a more ambitious direction.

Understanding that Paris is not the ‘last chance saloon’ for achieving 2°C, but a moment to accelerate action to deliver it, action that will go on well beyond 2015, is important. In this light, Lima needed to prepare the ground work for Paris. And it did just that.

A few key substantive outcomes should be highlighted from Lima:

Firstly, it delivered basic guidance on how countries should put forward their offers in advance of Paris. This is new. In Copenhagen we left it until the last minute for countries to table their offers, which led to confusion and mismatched expectations. This year we will know well in advance what we’re dealing with. We will be able to understand what countries offers means to their economies and societies. Importantly, these offers will be aggregated and checked against their impact in meeting a 2°C trajectory.

Secondly, Lima delivered the basis of a draft negotiating text, which includes some exciting and innovative proposals (e.g. net zero emissions by 2050 goal) on how to structure the Paris agreement and make 2°C a reality through which decisions on investments can be benchmarked against.

And, finally, we saw some small progress on finance. Developed countries took more responsibility to look at how they would provide more predictable finance for those they fund.

Lima was effective at delivering these basic elements required for Paris. But it was the politics of Lima that hinted at what we might expect in December. For many insiders and outsiders to the climate talks, they often appear stale and toxic. But in reality they are some of the most dynamic on the multilateral stage. Getting 196 countries to agree to effectively change the foundations of their economic growth is no mean feat, and the shifts in positioning from the likes of the United States and China proves that change is upon us. As we draw nearer to Paris, countries are beginning to understand and come to terms with what climate action and impacts means to their national interest. The rubber is hitting the road to Paris, and countries are changing up gears.

What we’re witnessing is a new form of international cooperation emerging. No longer are the ‘rich’ countries the only ones who should accept responsibility to act to address global public goods. The arrival of President Humala from Peru, President Santos from Colombia and my personal heroine Michel Bachelet, President of Chile all stood in solidarity and took responsibility to act for more domestic and global ambition.

Over the next few months countries will begin to put forward their plans to reduce emissions. This will impact how our cities prosper; the preservation of our natural heritage; how innovation will develop; where we source our energy; and whether our air, food, soil and water are clean or toxic. This time around CEOs, Mayors, Citizens and Campaigners will need to pile on the pressure to protect our future. 2015 will need to build on the enormous success of the global climate march, and demonstrate to consequences of inaction to our political leaders.

In this time of geopolitical turmoil, volatile oil and commodity prices our leaders are going to have a lot of legitimate distractions. What is needed is to build on the groundswell emerging for more ambitious action, and inform our leaders of what’s at stake in 2015. A stable climate is essential to preserving the conditions for prosperity and growth. Without a stable climate, the geopolitical and economic strife will look like a walk in the park.

This article was previously published by Comment Visions.

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