A two-week long climate change conference begins in Lima, Peru, today. Amitabh Sinha explains what the conference is all about and what to expect from it..
What is this conference?
It is the annual meeting of the countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that came into effect in 1994. These meetings are generally referred to as Conference of Parties, or CoP. This is the 20th meeting, hence CoP-20.
What is the conference about?
The countries are negotiating a global agreement to put in place a plan of action to deal with climate change. One such action plan was the Kyoto Protocol which was decided at the 1997 meeting but came into effect only in 2005 after the minimum required number of countries ratified it. The Kyoto Protocol made it mandatory for a group of 37 rich and industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a specified amount.
The first phase of Kyoto Protocol — the first commitment period as it was called — expired in 2012. Fewer countries signed up for the second commitment period which will go on till 2020. The Kyoto Protocol has proven to be largely ineffective and inadequate in dealing with increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Though the Kyoto Protocol will continue to be an important part of the emission reduction regime, the global agreement being negotiated will be a much more comprehensive architecture for dealing with climate change.
So what is being negotiated?
A global and comprehensive agreement that is much more than the emission reduction regime that Kyoto Protocol put in place. The Bali conference of 2007 identified four basic elements, or the building blocks, for such a climate agreement. These were:
Mitigation, or emission reduction: The agreement must ensure mandatory and targeted reduction in emission of greenhouse gases
Adaptation: It must include action plans to help countries in adapting to the effects of climate change
Transfer of Technology: A framework to ensure easier access of technology that will help in mitigation or adaptation
Finance: Access of money to poorer countries to deal with climate change
In addition, several other elements would be part of the agreement like afforestation and reducing deforestation, and capacity building.
The 2010 meeting in Cancun agreed that the emission reduction regime must have participation from all the countries — the Kyoto Protocol requires emission cuts only from a few countries — though this has to be in line with their respective responsibilities and capabilities to take mitigation actions. This is in accordance with the famous Common But Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capability (CBDR/RC) enshrined in the UNFCCC.
What are the chances of Lima conference delivering this agreement?
Lima is not slated to deliver the final agreement. The Doha conference of 2012 had decided that a global climate agreement should be reached by 2015. The 2015 conference is to be held in Paris, where an agreement is expected to be finalised.
So what will happen in Lima?
It is expected that the building blocks of the climate agreement would be created in Lima. The countries would negotiate on the basic elements and hopefully come to a conclusion on how the final agreement should look like.
What is in it for India?
India has been an important voice at the climate negotiations, especially in the last few years when its greenhouse gas emissions have increased very rapidly. India is now the fourth largest emitter in the world, behind China, the United States and the European Union taken as one entity. India is not mandated to take emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol but there is a growing concern about India’s rising emissions. There is an expectation, and also some kind of pressure, that India should take actions to rein in its emissions.
India’s negotiating strategy revolves around the CBDR principle referred earlier and equity. It argues that it has not been responsible at all for the emissions in the last 100 years that has resulted in global warming today. Its emissions have increased only in the last 10 years as it tries to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. It, therefore, must not be expected to take mandatory emission cuts even as it tries to slow down the growth of emissions through measures like improved energy efficiency or an increase in renewable energy. India also argues that a climate agreement must be based on equity. It must allow poorer countries enough space to carry out developmental works.
India is also hoping that it will benefit from transfer of technology and access to finance. Indian negotiators will try to ensure that their concerns are not ignored while the contours of the agreement are being finalised in Lima.