All eyes on Lima: What to expect from the climate talks

As world governments prepare to descend upon the Peruvian capital to hammer out the components of a global climate deal, edie has rounded up the hopes and expectations of sustainability professionals, industry experts and green groups to find out what would make the Lima negotiations a success for businesses.

From 1-12 December, the 20th Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be a strong stepping stone towards reaching a global deal in Paris in 2015.

Ahead of the talks, UNFCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres said: “The litmus test of success in Lima will be a clear draft of the universal agreement, a shared determination by all to deliver significant national contributions to build a low-carbon, resilient future initial capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund and the mobilisation of a broad coalition of actors turning potential into reality on the ground without delay.”


But what are the business priorities? What bold pledges from the 195 nations at the Lima climate talks would most effectively close the emissions gap and help companies deliver a low-carbon economy? 

Positive momentum

Speaking to edie, Mike Barry, director of Plan A at Marks & Spencer, said: “The China-US climate deal has changed everything, giving impetus to what had looked like being a slow, painful march to Copenhagen Mk II. Is it perfect? No it isn’t. But it’s injected pace and ideas into the climate process and thrown down the gauntlet to those who wanted to hide behind the big two’s inaction. Now the spotlight is on other countries to spell out their commitments starting in Lima and culminating in Paris.

“There is too much momentum now to hold back the rise of renewables; phase out of the worse carbon practices; the development of smart and efficient cities; and – the next big thing – green products and services becoming cost neutral and desirable. Lima needs to maintain this momentum.” 

John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Building Council, told edie that Lima negotiators must lay the groundwork for an ambitious deal to be signed in Paris in 2015.

“There is a lot of positive momentum going into Lima following the recent US-China climate deal, the EU’s climate package and multi-million pound pledges into the Green Climate Fund,” said Alker. “Yet the IPCC’s latest report is another reminder that time is not on our side, and with just a year until Paris, Lima must be used as a springboard to a legally binding global deal.

“With buildings responsible for nearly a fifth of global emissions, we hope these talks will put the enormous potential of our built environment to mitigate climate change and adapt to its worst effects front and centre.”

Binding targets

Meanwhile, a senior EU official in Brussels told the guardian that an international deal on global warming must have legally binding targets in order to be successfully implemented. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official that the bloc had not abandoned its position that any agreement on emissions cuts needed to be mandatory.

“Legally binding mitigation targets are definitely something that the EU is pushing for,” the official said. “This is one of our key asks. We’re yet to be convinced that you could have a sufficient rules-base and certitude by alternative approaches. But it is no secret that some other countries are in a different place.”

“We need to see Lima bring about more convergence, more focus to the text and allow zooming into the really big political crunch issues, as time is short.”

Pivotal year

The recent UN Climate Summit, US-China climate accord and the Green Climate Fund’s mobilisation of $9.3bn have built up some positive momentum in the run-up to Lima. But the Aldersgate Group – a coalition of environment agencies, NGOs, think tanks and industry representatives – says negotiators must seize this opportunity sooner rather than later.

The Group’s executive director Nick Molho said: “2015 is a pivotal year for climate action. Paris will be a watershed for international climate negotiations which, as the IPCC’s Synthesis Report showed earlier this month, must drive action at the pace and scale required by climate science. Lima must establish a framework for individual countries’ domestic climate action plans post-2020 and outline how they will submit their pledges.”


Hæge Fjellheim, senior point carbon analyst at Thomson Reuters, said the Lima talks will have to deliver on two main tasks to keep the pace for Paris: determining the structure of countries’ contributions; and shaping the draft negotiations text for the Paris summit. 

“This announcement will to a large extent define the climate ambition in the Paris agreement and – combined with recent financial pledges – it will likely unlock some of the controversies in the negotiations,” said Fjellheim. “The picture is fragmented however, and sobering up from the US-China announcement, the negotiations will continue to be cumbersome with many countries holding on to their positions until the final rounds in Paris.

“For international market mechanisms to have a meaningful role after 2020, there will have to be demand for international carbon credits. The targets by US, China and EU give no indication of such demand, so it seems likely that existing mechanisms – such as CDM – will dry out after 2020, while any new crediting mechanisms are unlikely to get off the ground.”

Empty shell?

Campaign group Friends of the Earth International is equally sceptical; warning that the United Nations talks are ‘heading in the wrong direction’. The group’s climate justice and energy coordinator Dipti Bhatnagar said: “Looking at the texts that our governments are negotiating in Lima, the climate deal that they plan to reach next year in Paris could turn out to be, at best, an empty shell. They must reverse their course of action urgently.”

Friends of the Earth is calling for a number of significant steps to be taken in Peru, including: –

– Wealthy developed nations – which are responsible for most of the pollution that has already occurred – to pledge bigger cuts in their emissions by 2020;
– Confirmation that a comprehensive agreement in Paris next year must address the need to provide finance and technology as well as address adaptation to enable developing countries to tackle climate change and adapt to its impacts – as well as setting clear and legally-binding targets for cutting emissions;
– An agreement to ensure clean, decentralised community-controlled energy for the two billion people in the world currently without access to electricity.

Lime climate talks: Five things we want to see

Climate experts Jennifer Morgan and David Waskow from the World Resources Institute (WRI) have have identified the most important indicators and measures for success in Lima.

1) Set guidelines for what countries will include in their climate action plans for after 2020

Negotiators at Lima should ensure adequate information is available to the public and other countries to understand their plans and compare proposals. Countries vary in levels of development, vulnerability to climate impacts and emissions they release

2) Establish a process to assess country plans for action

Countries should decide on a way to assess one another’s contributions so they can be enhanced before next December’s Paris meeting. Additionally, countries and the public will be keen to understand how the contributions stack up to limit global temperature rise to under two degrees, a threshold scientists say should not be crossed if we are to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate

3) Narrow down the negotiating text and ensure the agreement has staying power

In Lima, countries need to narrow down the options for the core components of the 2015 agreement, including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity-building and transparency. But the deal to be finalized in Paris next year must also work out a longer-term process for climate action. 

4) Agree on a clear roadmap to mobilize climate action funds

Funds to help developing countries ramp up renewable energy and become more resilient to climate impacts are critically important. Recent pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which is primed to become the main global fund for providing climate change finance, have gotten this off to a good start. More progress toward a total of $10 billion for the Fund is expected by the end of the Lima talks.

5) Advance near-term climate action

While the 2015 agreement will focus on climate actions after 2020, additional action must take place before that to avoid the most extreme consequences of climate change. Countries have an important opportunity in Lima to chart more ambitious action.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has produced a similar list of key actions needed to achieve a low-carbon energy sector.

Luke Nicholls

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