LIMA, Peru, December 12, 2014 (AMG) — The second and final week of the Lima climate negotiations is currently underway.

The talks are aimed at laying the groundwork for a legally binding agreement on emission reductions, to be finalized in a Paris 2015 meeting, which would be effective from the year 2020. Small island states are in favour of a legally-binding agreement because it would ensure that countries will be sanctioned if they fail implement their commitments.

However, renowned economist, Lord Nicholas Stern, is warning against a legally binding climate deal, calling it a “serious mistake.” He says that “some may fear that commitments that are not internationally legally-binding may lack credibility. That, in my view, is a serious mistake. The sanctions available under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, were notionally legally-binding but were simply not credible and failed to guarantee domestic implementation of commitments.”

Lord Stern suggests that grounding an emission reduction process into the laws and policies of each country would be more beneficial because countries would be more ambitious in setting goals; goals will be ‘enforceable and deliverable’ through the countries’ own laws and arrangements;  and countries would not be hesitant to make ambitious reduction targets because of international sanctions.

The states of the European Union (EU) have made it clear that they have no problem committing to legally binding mitigation targets. Most developing countries also fully support the idea of a legally binding agreement as they depend on it for a structurally reliable future.

The United States, on the other hand, is not as willing as others to commit to a legally binding agreement as they insist that getting such a document ratified in the Senate will be more than difficult. Todd Stern, the United States special envoy on climate change said, “proposals that would involve, in effect, a kind of designated burden-sharing on how reductions should be split up among countries of the world has extremely little chance of political viability.”

A representative from Christian Aid, an observer at the Lima Climate Talks, says that countries need to be able to trust that pledges made in the Paris deal will be implemented and having a legally binding document will allow countries to hold each other accountable.

Stay tuned for details from Week 2 of Lima Climate Talks.

Cover photo: Lord Nicholas Stern. Credit: World Resources Institute. 

Lima COP-20: Is a legally-binding agreement feasible?

Sophia Longsworth

Sophia is a Grenadian residing in the United States. She holds an MPH and an MSc. in Natural Resource and Environmental Management, and has research interests in the impact of the environment on public health.

Category: PoliticsSustainability