First Week of Lima Climate Talks Brings No Optimism

The first week of Lima talks did not result in any progress regarding the creation of the Green Climate Fund, and the adaptation issues were none of their priority. The new typhoon in the Philippines is symbolic of the cynicism of such an approach. The countries’ commitments to reduce their GHG emissions have failed to include any specific detail. The fossil fuel lobby keeps looking for loopholes to continue the fossil fuel industry development within the new climate agreement’s framework.

The main problem of the new agreement due to be signed in 2015 is that it is aimed solely to reduce GHG emissions. This is being pushed by the developed countries, while the developing countries, along with the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change, understand that this measure alone is far from being enough. Many countries need to adapt to climate changes already now, and this process requires proper financing and technologies. This issue is currently the main deal-breaker for the new agreement.

At the previous COP in Warsaw the countries agreed to provide their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), something the countries are ready to do in order to avoid climate change, i.e. their contribution to the new agreement. The analysis shows that even if many countries will commit to significantly reduce their emissions, in 2025 and 2030 the global emissions may reach a level that will lead to the temperature increase of a minimum of 2 degrees centigrade.

Clearly, the developed countries do not wish to commit financially. The COP that took place in Copenhagen established the Green Climate Fund and set the goal of raising $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices. However, the overall pledges are now falling short even of the unofficial goal of $10 billion. With the latest pledge announced at Lima, Norway raised the total to $9.95 billion. The image provided by Oxfam shows a brief outline of the current country pledges to the GCF.

However, even $100 billion is not enough. The developed countries are expected to commit more ambitiously to help the vulnerable countries. The developing countries, in turn, demand clarity on where from, to whom and which ways the money is going to go. Russia has not pledged anything to GCF yet, but in his statement on the Kremlin’s website, Alexander Bedritsky, Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change, writes, ‘As an economy in transition, Russia does not have a financial obligation to contribute to the UNFCCC funds. However, Russia has stated its willingness to support climate projects in developing countries and in other economies in transition, including in the CIS. This type of assistance will be provided bilaterally and will take the form of voluntary contributions to international organizations and to financial mechanisms, such as the GCF.’ (http://eng.state.kremlin.ru/administration/23372)

Russia is among the top-5 of largest GHG emitters, along with China, the US, India, and the EU. However, Russia also possesses a hidden threat in the form of the so-called methane bomb. The Siberian and Arctic permafrost is thawing, while the accumulated biomass contained within is releasing huge amounts of methane. The Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) (http://ameg.me) has tried to draw the delegates’ attention to the matter. ‘Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas. It is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide’, says AMEG’s Stewart Scott. ‘The East Siberian shelf contains around 50 gigatons of methane which is already being emitted into the atmosphere. This may lead to disastrous consequences,’ he continues. Click HERE to watch the full lecture (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSsPHytEnJM#t=11).

The Lima talks are being held under the banner of human rights protection. In the past few years, 57 environmental activists have been murdered in Peru. They fought against illegal logging and extraction of fossil fuel on their land. Four environmental activists from Saweto tribe were murdered two months ago. On December 5, the civil society joined forces to support the widows of the diseased activists by organizing a mass protest under the slogan ‘We are All Saweto’. An indigenous leader from Ecuador was murdered a few days ago. He was going to be at the COP 20 in Lima to take part in the protest against illegal logging. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/06/ecuador-indigenous-leader-f...) This whole story is reminiscent of what is happening in Russia in terms of human rights violation, in particular of the pressure experienced by environmental activists. One of the most famous recent examples is the story of Evgeniy Vitishko. (http://freevitishko.org/)

On December 5, a meeting was organized for civil society representatives and the Umbrella Group, which includes Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the United States. Unfortunately, representatives of Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine failed to show up. Russian NGO observers are planning to present their Position (http://rusecounion.ru/eng_statement_lima_271114) to the Head of the delegation next week.

The civil society is extremely disappointed by the events organized by the major polluters. Last Friday, a side-event under the title of ‘The Ability of Clean Fossil and Non-fossil Energy to Fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals’ was held in the Persian Gulf countries’ pavilion (representing Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain). On Monday, December 8, Shell, Chevron and other oil companies held a side-event called ‘Why Divest from Fossil Fuels When a Future with Low Emission Fossil Energy Use is Already a Reality?’ The same day, the biggest polluting companies organized a Global Climate Summit to discuss ways to reconcile the continued use of oil, gas and coal with the new climate agreement. All that does not give much reason to hope for the movement towards a clean future, with renewable energy and sustainable economic development.

These December days, Typhoon Hagupit, a Category 5 super typhoon, the most intense tropical cyclone of 2014, hit the Philippines. Last year’s super typhoon Haiyan also coincided with the international climate negotiations. Then, 10,000 people were found dead, and Yeb Sano of the Filipino delegation made a very moving speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SSXLIZkM3E) at the Conference’s opening, after which he became the symbol of the vulnerable countries. He is absent at this year’s negotiations. Furthermore, he was excluded from the delegation, and the observers believe it was due to the pressure from the developing countries, namely the US and the EU.

The climate negotiations’ high segment begins next week. On Wednesday, December 10, thousands of people marched in the streets of Lima for climate justice, human rights and a clean future for everybody.

According to Olga Senova, Head of the Climate Secretariat of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union, the outcomes of the first week of Lima climate negotiations give little hope for a comprehensive climate agreement based on the principle of climate justice, which is expected by the civil society and the most vulnerable countries.