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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
COP20: Another failure?
Cecilia Remón
12/21/2014
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At the last minute the Lima Call for Climate Action managed to pass. The agreement leaves large gaps, huge uncertainties and lacks commitments.

The miscalculated action by Greenpeace to draw attention to climate change during the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was held in Lima, Peru, from December 1 to 12, overshadowed the activities and demands of civil society of the countries most affected by global warming.

Greenpeace activists laid the message "Time for change! The future is renewable! " in yellow letters on one of the most delicate and protected areas in Peru: the Nazca lines, located about 300 km (186.42 miles) south of Lima. Without official authorization, activists sneaked in at night to the archaeological site where the famous figure of the hummingbird is located. Protestors were quick to respond, forcing those responsible within the environmental organization to apologize, but the damage was already done. There are aerial photos that show the footprints left on the lines, footprints that will never fade.

While officials from the Ministry of Culture announced that action would be taken against the activists, the truth is that Peru also cannot show its political will to protect the cultural, much less environmental, heritage of the country. Recent legislations aimed at reviving the economy have relaxed environmental standards and protective measures for cultural heritage sites.

In this framework, the COP20 was held and attended by negotiators and representatives of civil society from 195 countries to discuss a document that includes agreements to reduce emissions.

Although science has conclusively shown that the climate change that is felt throughout the planet is due to the indiscriminate use of fossil fuels, there are still nations that are unwilling to commit to reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
 
Road to COP21
After 13 days of negotiations and 36 hours later than planned, on the morning of December 14 the "Lima Call for Climate Action" was approved. The agreement establishes the elements of the new agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which was extended in 2012 until 2020. This new agreement would be signed by COP21, to be held in December 2015 in Paris, France.

The nations "agreed on the basic rules on how all countries can submit their contributions to the new agreement during the first quarter of next year," indicates an official COP20 statement.

Although the document recognizes the common but differentiated responsibilities to reduce GHGs, the reality is that it remains at the discretion of each country to reduce their emissions. The agreement also does not mention how commitments will be monitored nor does it include immediate plans to cope with the damage and losses caused by climate change.

The president of the COP20, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal, highlighted “the importance not only of agreeing in Lima to a global agreement draft that will be signed in Paris in 2015, but also the success in terms of public image for the country to have had impeccable organization in the greatest event that has taken place in Peru.”

Among the agreements reached include exceeding the target intended for the Green Climate Fund by adding commitments of US$10.2 billion a year until 2020, reinforcing the National Adaptation Plans so each country can commit to actions for a planned adaptation, and a work plan on gender to promote the effective participation of women in the UNFCCC and empowerment women in regards to adaptation and mitigation.

“The Lima agreement is solid not only because it fulfilled the mandates established at the Warsaw COP19, but because Lima approved the draft that contains the elements for negotiation, something that had never happened before. In turn, it strengthened the national contribution plans, which are programs that countries must present next year, and also financing mechanisms, both in the approved document and in other decisions,“ said Pulgar Vidal.

For Uruguayan specialist Eduardo Gudynas of the Latin American Center for Social Ecology (CLAES), “the agreement left many outstanding problems and a few uncertainties. The concept of differentiated responsibilities between countries was kept. There still is the intention of a new agreement through which nations would contribute to reducing greenhouse gases, and the effects of loss and damage due to climate change were added. But there are no further details and the wording of the resolution is filled with terms like ´ask´ or ´invite´ states, creating all sorts of uncertainties.”

As Gudynas states, the governments walked in circles, each in its own way, to avoid commitments and the cost of addressing climate change. In fact, the word “binding”  is not in the agreement.
 
The peoples´ perspective
Meanwhile, civil society continued to pressure government delegates, demanding concrete action. On December 10 a march through the streets of Lima was held in which thousands of people from around the world participated. Local media did not cover the large mobilization. Instead it showed more interest in covering the actions of Greenpeace.

The march was the highlight of the People´s Summit on Climate Change, an alternative space for dialogue and open, democratic and horizontal action for civil society and indigenous peoples to share experiences, problems and proposals to address climate change. The summit was held from December 8 to 11 in parallel with COP20.

The Declaration of Lima issued by the People´s Summit called on the world´s governments to respect “our lands, rights and ways of life, our cultures, customs and world views about life and the world we live in.”

“We condemn the exploitation of our natural resources and territories by extractive industries that affect our livelihoods, our source of identity and our communities´ harmonious relationship with Mother Earth. We demand the recognition of land ownership of the communities that have traditionally lived on their land. We do not accept external control of territory or the processes of negotiation and implementation of false solutions for climate change. Governments must have, at the core, respect for our ancestral ways of life and recognize our self-determination as nations and indigenous peoples,” says the Declaration of Lima.

Although Pulgar Vidal tried to show the success of the agreement, the international network Latin America Climate Action Network, CAN-LA, called the outcome of COP20 a “failure”.

“The country delegates are bent on using the climate negotiations as trade negotiations where the main thing is not the overall defense of life, but the defense of national economies and their demand for unsustainable growth,” said CAN-LA in a statement.

“The results of the COP20 do not provide any figures for emission reduction, and the ´communication´ for [the countries´] voluntary contributions before October 2015 is up to the discretion of each country. And although the text states that such commitments should be ´measurable and important´, there is no agreed upon mechanism of measurement, much less a consensus criteria for deciding what is ´important´, whereby the intended Paris agreement, which would replace the Kyoto Protocol, is already brought up with less ambition than this one,” added CAN-LA.

Finally, CAN-LA called on Latin American nations to play a bigger role and set themselves apart from the industrialized countries. -Latinamerica Press.


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Thousands of people marched through the streets of Lima on December 10 for climate justice. (Photo: Milagros Anaya)
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