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Climate-change delegates criticised for weak language

by
19 December 2014

Joe Ware hears last-minute promises at Lima summit

SEAN HAWKEY

Mobilised: an indigenous Bolivian man on the Global March for the Climate, in Lima, on Wednesday of last week

Mobilised: an indigenous Bolivian man on the Global March for the Climate, in Lima, on Wednesday of last week

AS THE gavel came down on two hot weeks of negotiations at the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru, COP 20 (Comment, 19 September), the heavens opened, and doused the desert city with its first rain of the fortnight.

Governments from more than 190 countries ended the latest round of international climate talks in the early hours of Sunday morning - 30 hours past the planned Friday-evening deadline.

It marked the end of the last full gathering of nations before a global deal designed to set the world on a path to tackling climate change is signed next December, in Paris.

This year, scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set out in even starker terms the rising global temperatures that the world is expected to face if no significant cuts are made to carbon pollution. Governments have promised to limit average global warming to no more than 2° above pre-industrial levels. But scientists say that the current trajectory means that the world will heat up to nearer 4°. Climate-change impacts around the world today are at 0.85°.

Civil-society groups criticised the outcome in Lima for including only weak language on key elements that will need to form part of the Paris agreement. On emissions, nations failed to agree on a robust rules system to assess each country's planned cuts, and there was only vague mention of the climate finance and other support promised to poor and vulnerable countries. The finance is needed to help them adapt to climate change, and capitalise on their renewable-energy potential.

Despite the missed opportunity by politicians in Lima, the rest of the world appears to be moving ahead with the clean-energy transition. The fossil-fuel disinvestment campaign has seen significant momentum this year, and investors ranging from the Rockerfeller oil dynasty to the diocese of Oxford have pulled out of dirty-energy firms.

Speaking about the mismatch between the sluggish progress made in Lima and the strength of public feeling shown by the climate marches in New York and elsewhere in September, Jamie Henn, of the campaign group 350.org said: "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."

Next year is shaping up to be a significant one for global efforts to tackle climate change, as the successors to the Millennium Development Goals are also set to be agreed in September. Christian Aid backed a recent call from the Environmental Audit Select Committee in the UK for a "green thread" to run through all the Sustainable Development Goals, as they will be known.

Christian Aid's Senior Adviser on Poverty and Inequality, Helen Dennis, said: "It's good to see the committee's recognition that we cannot eradicate poverty without addressing climate change. . . The UK Government needs to stop dithering and come out strongly in favour of a standalone climate goal." 

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