In December 2015 at a high-level meeting in Paris, countries are to agree on a new international climate agreement that will require much deeper action by all countries. For the next two weeks, countries are beginning another round of climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru. This is the last high-level round of negotiations before Paris, although there will be several preparatory meetings next year and several key opportunities for world leaders to put their mark on the next international agreement. Key signs of the new international agreement have already started to emerge and Lima must help set us on the right course for a strong international agreement next year.
The new agreement will be centered on several key issues including: (a) new emissions reduction targets that countries will commit to implement; (b) investments to support developing countries in their efforts to address climate change; and (c) tools to ensure that countries meet their commitments.
What new emissions reduction targets will countries agree to implement?
The Paris agreement will cover targets for the period after 2020 — since the current targets run through 2020. These should be focused on 2025 as that drives near-term action. We can’t afford to wait for deeper action. Countries agreed that they would make an “initial” proposal on their next round of emissions reduction targets in the “first quarter of 2015” so countries are deep into their domestic preparations.
Some countries have already stepped forward with signs of their next round of targets. Europe, China, and the US have all announced the outlines of what they will propose next year. These countries account for over 50% of the world’s emissions so what they propose is critical but more will have to join in the coming months. As we approach Paris, several key outstanding issues will arise:
- Other key countries have yet to announce their climate targets – how deep of commitments will they outline?
- EU committed to cut their emissions domestically 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 – what will they commit to in a 2025 target?
- US committed to cut their emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels in 2025 – will they strengthen this target in Paris?
- China committed to peak their CO2 emissions no later than 2030 and to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in the energy mix to 20% by 2030 – will they commit to a greenhouse gas target in 2025 and other measures to address non-CO2 gases?
In Lima, countries are to agree on the set of minimum information that is to be provided when they outline their proposed national commitments next year (see here for a draft). It is important that the agreement in Lima specify three important threshold issues: (a) countries detail 2025 emissions reduction commitments; (2) countries only propose efforts that are stronger than what they are currently implementing; and (3) a minimum set of information is provided so that we know exactly what countries are proposing for their targets.
How will developed countries assist developing countries in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change?
In Copenhagen, countries agreed to establish the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and to mobilize $100 billion per year to aid developing countries. The GCF has been launched and decided on a number of the rules to make it operational. It will need to work on more key decisions in the coming months, but the basic rules were established with enough detail that countries pledged initial resources to the GCF.
Countries have now pledged around $9.7 billion of initial resources to the GCF. More countries may make announcements at Lima. The countries pledging include most of the key developed countries and some emerging economies – a first for this kind of fund (see figure):
How will other tools be strengthened?
The Agreements in Cancun set in motion a number of new rules and institutions that will likely form the backbone of the agreement in Paris (see Cancun and Durban agreements for more details). For a number of issues, the agreement in Paris won’t likely establish new international mechanisms but instead will seek to expand their reach and impact beyond 2020 – taking them to the next level for a new era of international climate action. Coming out of Lima, the Co-Chairs of the process are to develop an “elements text” (see here for current draft text). This text will help to inform the debate next year as countries capture the agreed concepts in a new legal agreement. This elements text will begin to detail how the current tools will be strengthened and what additional tools are added to the toolbox.
One particular area that will likely gain significant attention in Paris will be how to ensure that countries live up to their commitments and what steps are taken if they are off-track. The Cancun Agreements outlined a new process for both developed and developing countries under the monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) rules – also called “transparency and accountability provisions” – to help ensure that countries live up to their commitments. Both processes follow these three stages (see here for summary):
- every two years countries submit Biennial Update Reports (BURs) which provide recent data on their emissions, project their emissions into the future with their current actions and with new measures under consideration, and the specific steps they are taking to meet their targets;
- independent expert review of the countries report and progress toward their target;
- public process to review a countries target where each country is subject to questions from other countries on their progress in a public forum at the Climate Ministerial.
Developed countries submitted their biennial reports by the beginning of 2014 (see here for the full timeline). Developing Countries are to submit their reports by early 2015. The independent reviews of each developed country have been started or concluded and they will now be subject to the public review process – the International Consultation and Analysis – beginning this December in Lima – with the US, European Union, Switzerland and New Zealand set for review on Dec. 6-8, 2014 and other key countries set for early next year – including Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Paris will also be focused on trying to strengthen ambition before 2020 by using all the tools at our disposal including efforts through other international agreements (e.g., through phasing-down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol) and “action-oriented” initiatives. The meeting in Paris is also expected to include an action-agenda with more commitments from companies, countries, cities, financial institutions, and other key actors that build upon the commitments coming out of Climate Summit this past September.
As countries advance towards a new international agreement next December the path is clear and the route is starting to come into greater clarity. The meeting in Lima will need to set us in the right direction to secure a strong international agreement that helps put the world on path that avoids the worst impacts of climate change.