In typical fashion, the United Nations climate summit failed to make any real headway on a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming.
Instead, delegates from 194 countries walked away with a non-binding agreement to come back and negotiate again next year.
Some environmentalists and media outlets have tried to spin the agreement reached in Lima, Peru this weekend as a big step towards a real global warming treaty, but critics argue the failed climate summit was no surprise.
“The Lima agreement is another acknowledgement of international reality,” said Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Forum. “The deal is further proof, if any was needed, that the developing world will not agree to any legally binding caps, never mind reductions of their CO2 emissions.”
The Lima climate summit ended, once again, with countries split across rich-poor nation lines. In the early years of climate talks, the rich-poor split was less of a problem because most greenhouse gas emissions came from rich, developed countries.
But a new dynamic has changed the very nature of the climate summits. China, India and other rapidly developing nations are overtaking rich countries in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, China is now the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.
Rich countries, led by the U.S. and Europe, have been trying to push China and others to cut their carbon dioxide emissions. China has pledged to peak its emissions by 2030, but it was unwilling to let other countries scrutinize its efforts. Chinese delegates also made hay over the lagging climate aid from rich countries to poor countries.
“As seasoned observers predicted, the Lima deal is based on a voluntary basis which allows nations to set their own voluntary CO2 targets and policies without any legally binding caps or international oversight,” Peiser said.
Environmentalists were also displeased with the outcome of the Lima summit. Green groups tend to want legally binding caps to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Negotiators failed to build on the momentum coming into these talks,” said Jamie Henn, spokesman for 350.org. “Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand climate action–millions more will join them in the year ahead. Politicians can either ride that wave, or be swept away by it.”
But others in the environmental movement has said the Lima agreement puts a global climate treaty within reach.
“A global climate agreement is now within reach,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute. “While more hard work remains, negotiators found common ground on the most pressing issues.”
“In the coming months, countries must propose their climate action plans and hammer out the details of the core agreement. Momentum has been growing for global climate action, with the US, China, and EU putting their emissions targets on the table early. Now others countries need to step up to the plate,” Morgan said.
Delegates will meet again next year in Paris to hash out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. But critics of the UN climate summits say that provisions in the Lima agreement could allow countries to remove legally binding emissions reductions goals.
“In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, the Lima deal opens the way for a new climate agreement in 2015 which will remove legal obligations for governments to cap or reduce CO2 emissions,” Peiser added. “A voluntary agreement would also remove the mad rush into unrealistic decarbonisation policies that are both economically and politically unsustainable.”
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