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Fossil-Fuel Limits in All Nations Closer After UN Deal

By Alex Nussbaum, Alex Morales and Ewa Krukowska for Bloomberg-

A plan to limit fossil-fuel pollution in all nations for the first time came a step closer as envoys from more than 190 countries agreed on the key parts of a deal they plan to adopt next year to fight global warming.

After two weeks of discussions in Peru organized by the United Nations, the diplomats agreed on the detail of pledges from all nations on curbing greenhouse gases. Richer countries gave an assurance they’re on track to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate aid by 2020.

The decision sets the framework for a landmark agreement the UN intends to adopt in December 2015 in Paris that will rein in the emissions damaging the atmosphere. It included last-minute concessions to some of the poorest nations in the world, who are concerned the system will impose costly and painful changes on their economies.

“We are on track for an ambitious and equitable Paris agreement,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of climate programs at the World Resources Institute in Washington, an advocacy group. “What you’re seeing is the emergence of a new form of international cooperation on global climate change.”

The talks in Lima are part of a process started three years ago to apply pollution limits in all nations instead of just the industrialized countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol. Since that treaty was signed in 1997, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s biggest emitter, and India became third. Both are classified as developing countries exempt from restrictions.

Pollution Pledges

Countries agreed on what information they’ll provide to back up the goals they’ll put on paper for reining in emissions. The biggest polluters have turned the work into a mostly voluntary system — and some such as India may be allowed to keep levels rising.

“Although the EU wanted a more ambitious outcome from Lima, we beieve we are on track to agree a global deal in Paris next year,” said Miguel Arias Canete, the European Union’s climate and energy commissioner.

This year’s pact preserved some of the divisions between the richer- and poorer-country camps, allowing the least developed nations and small island states to make commitments “in light of different national circumstances.” Inserted at the last minute to appease developing nations was a reference to “common but differentiated responsibilities.” That phrase dates to 1992, and nations such as China interpret it as placing the burden to act on the rich.

Kyoto Treaty

The deal is an effort to broaden participation capping fossil fuels to include those with the quickest-growing emissions in the developing world. While Kyoto’s limits were legally binding, it now covers just 15 percent of the global total. The envoys want every nation to make a contribution before meeting in Paris.

“The idea you would shape the form and content of a new agreement based on who was in which boat in 1992 to us is completely indefensible,” Todd Stern, the U.S. envoy in Lima, told reporters after the meeting. “That has to change and what we did today was a good step, but this issue was contentious. It will need to be worked through all the way to Paris.”

Review System

Efforts to install a system that will review those pledges and push for more ambitious cuts were stripped out of the Lima decision, prompting jeers from environmental groups.

“The thing that we’re not seeing in here and that we’re not seeing at the highest levels of government is the commitment we saw mobilized when we wanted to save the global financial system,” Samantha Smith, who follows the talks for the environmental group WWF, said in Lima. “If we don’t get stronger actions, we will get very dangerous climate change.”

Temperatures are on track to rise 3.6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to the International Energy Agency. A shift of that magnitude would be faster than the one that ended the last ice age and scientists say it will melt glaciers, trigger more violent storms and raise sea levels.

Delegates this year agreed on the information countries should put forward in their contributions toward cutting greenhouse gases. They also poured options into a 37-page text that they need to convert into an official negotiating document by May, setting the form of the the Paris agreement.

Paris Agenda

For next year, the envoys, who are drawn from energy and environment ministries, looked at language about a new long-term goal.

Their current one is to keep temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which is too broad to be much of a guide to industry about where policy is headed. One option suggested in Lima: zero out fossil-fuel emissions by 2100, or reduce them 50 percent by 2050.

That would chime with the findings of climate scientists, who last month said estimated the world can burn oil, coal and natural gas at current rates for no more than two more decades before they risk causing irreparable damage to the planet.

“There is a growing consensus that Paris has to have a long-term goal of reducing if not eliminating fossil-fuel emissions,” said Alden Meyer, who has been attending the talks for more than two decades for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “That is a real difference from a year ago.”

This year’s text gave no milestones on how industrial nations will meet their pledge to boost climate aid to $100 billion a year by 2020, something developing economies say they need to help them budget.

Also included in the Lima text was a reference to a loss and damage mechanism created last year to help the most vulnerable nations cope with the effects of climate change. Islands, especially the Philippines after its battering by a typhoon last week, want that provision to turn into another funding stream. Richer nations are concerned about writing a blank check for disasters abroad.

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