Last month’s surprise climate change agreement between the US and China — the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) — infused new hope that the global gridlock in arriving at a substantive deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol could be broken at the 20th conference of parties (COP-20) in Lima. But the script at COP-20, which ended on Sunday, deep into extra time, was disappointingly close to those of COPs past, such as Copenhagen in 2009. The yawning chasm between the concerns of the developed and developing countries proved nearly insurmountable, and a last-minute face-saving accord was hammered out only by respecting each country’s red lines. The final accord, low in ambition, postpones all fundamental battles to 2015, when countries are expected to devise a new international legal architecture on climate change.
The disagreements conformed largely to the rich versus poor nation faultline in climate diplomacy. The points of contention that remain have bedeviled negotiations for years. Although governments are obliged to present their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) — voluntary targets and actions set by each nation — before the crucial United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Paris in December next year, the language is so carefully ambiguous that they “may include” (or not) detailed information on how and when they intend to cut emissions. In a win for developing countries, including India, adaptation measures may be included under INDCs alongside mitigation efforts. The North’s demand for review of emissions targets was dropped in deference to the South’s objections but equally, the former got its way on the issue of finance, no mention of which was made in the final text. The developing world also had to struggle to insert the longstanding principle of common but differentiated responsibilities enshrined in the UNFCCC, and was unable to add a direct reference to the principle of equity.
But the Lima talks were no loss for India, and may indeed have consolidated its position as a pre-eminent representative of developing country concerns. The conference saw renewed unity among the G77 and the Like Minded Developing Countries grouping — India is a part of both — and this coming together has strengthened their negotiating position ahead of Paris, where the task of concluding a meaningful deal has been rendered much tougher.