The fact that international negotiators at the climate change negotiations in Lima have agreed that for the first time all countries should contribute to cutting greenhouse gases is a step forward for the beleaguered United Nations talks. While the ‘Lima call for climate action’ has put off many of the most difficult decisions until the crucial talks in Paris in 2015, the fact that all countries will now be required to contribute regardless of size or wealth removes one of the barriers to a climate deal. But to ‘seal the deal’ in 2015 international NGOs now need to use people power to move governments like they did with the recent climate march in New York.
Predictably most of the NGOs attending were critical of what was achieved but tried to put a brave face on it. “It’s definitely watered down from what we expected,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The countdown clock to Paris is now ticking. Countries had the chance to give themselves a head start on the road to Paris but instead have missed the gun and now need to play catch up,” said Mohammed Adow, Christian Aid’s senior climate change advisor.
It is understandable that many international development NGOs are very sceptical about whether the world will come together in Paris to reach an agreement. The sheer complexity of the negotiating process, over 190 countries having to agree the text, together with the huge vested economic interests of major polluters like the US, China and the BRIC countries, mitigates against a deal. There is also the crucial question of whether any deal will keep below the 2 degree threshold. And of course the international development movement has been let down so many times, most notably at the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 when a draft text for finalisation was leaked only for the talks to again end in disarray.
I represented Practical Action at the United Nation climate change talks in Qatar two years ago, another negotiating round which ended in very little being achieved. What I learnt is that for many rich and developing countries the real sticking points revolve around emission reduction targets, economic competitiveness in a global economy and who will pay for the loss and damage caused by rising sea levels and extreme weather. While developed countries were able to hide behind everyone having to take their ‘fair’ share of cutting greenhouse gases, they could avoid having to deal with these very difficult issues. That is why the fact that all countries have finally agreed to contribute to a plan now gives a glimmer of hope that a deal can be signed in Paris.
For many NGOs who attended the marathon talks in Lima the dilemma now is do they begin to talk up prospects of a deal in Paris or not? I hope that in light of the deal made by the US and China to reduce their pollution and the Lima call for action, international NGOs will now begin to use people power to move governments instead of being critical voices on the sidelines. To do this they need to work together next year to run a global climate change campaign committing millions of people to take climate action to ‘seal the deal’ like they did to Drop the Debt and Make Poverty History. Despite the plethora of problems ahead and the catalogue of past failures, the United Nations climate talks in Paris next year remain our best change of getting a legally binding agreement in a generation.
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