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Waiting for Paris

The United Nations-sponsored climate summit in Lima turned out to be yet another underexploited opportunity to evolve a blueprint for a strong global agreement on climate protection in Paris next year. Little was gained and it is not clear if the compromises made would offer an alternative path with any promise of a better framework. It would, of course, be argued that for countries like India that managed to keep alive issues important to developing countries, disaster was averted. The fact, however, is that instead of ironing out differences between various country groupings on contentious issues that are thwarting progress on crafting a successor to the expired Kyoto protocol on climate change, the summit opted for an easier way out, accommodating various viewpoints on the consensus-based agenda for future negotiations. This, therefore, is likely to have an adverse impact on the talks for a possible accord at the Paris climate summit in 2015.

Also, any deal structured on the foundation laid down in the compromises-driven Lima declaration is bound to be a much weaker avatar of the Kyoto protocol, which it would seek to succeed post-2020. While the Kyoto pact had laid down firm targets for carbon emission reductions by the industrialised countries, the new deal would make such action voluntary for both developed and developing countries without any binding obligation to meet even the self-determined goals.

True, the Lima declaration has taken note of the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” that the developing countries have been insisting on. This concept was stipulated in the 1992 United Nations climate change convention that formed the basis for the Kyoto accord. However, this has now been watered down by linking it with “national circumstances”. The danger, therefore, is that both developed and developing countries may propose “nationally determined” action plans that are too feeble to ensure the kind of effort that is needed to stave off hazardous levels of global warming. This may, in turn, jeopardise meeting the broad goal of capping the rise in global temperature to two degrees Celsius. Moreover, the Lima statement is either silent or ambiguous on several other vital issues, more particularly on finance and technology for promoting green energy and environment-friendly economic development. No firm road map has been outlined for the rich countries to provide the committed $ 100 billion annually towards the Green Climate Fund from 2020 onwards. Funding and technical support are indeed vital also for adaptation to climate change that is already underway and is bound to turn more pronounced in near future as the countries inch towards peaking their carbon emissions.

With a likely further slackening of climate mitigation efforts in the wake of concessions offered in Lima, adaptation may assume even greater significance in the developing countries’ struggle to cope with global warming and more frequent climate-related natural disasters. The modalities of how adaptation will be addressed have been left in the Lima declaration to future negotiations. For developing countries, including India, which are highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, the issue of loss and damages, too, is quite critical, especially to deal with the consequences of climate change that cannot be fully addressed through adaptation. A strong mechanism for this is also, therefore, called for. The negotiations for Paris 2015 climate accord will, thus, need to take all these imperatives into consideration to put together a climate deal that is fair to all and yet effective enough to safeguard the earth’s climate without impeding socio-economic development.

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