LIMA, Peru, December 14, 2014 (AMG) — Past the official conference end, after hours of late night talks, delegates at the Lima climate conference finally agreed on a framework for submitting national pledges for the Paris pact in 2015.

The good news is that negotiators were able to strike a deal after the early momentum deteriorated into arguments over responsibility and issues of legality. The bad news is that hopes were high at the beginning of the conference, propelled with the US-China deal struck just as negotiations began. However, the talks quickly devolved into the same arguments that have historically plagued these conferences, and some worried that Lima may turn into a repeat of the disastrous Copenhagen meeting of 2009. As delegates wearily exited the conference in the early hours of December 14th, the deal was both maligned and praised.

The draft includes the “common but differentiated” language insisted upon by developing countries, who argue that historic producers should shoulder more responsibility. It also restored a “loss and damage” scheme for poorer countries to ensure assistance to deal with the financial damages from rising temperatures. This mechanism is particularly important for island nations facing dramatic losses from rising sea levels. The draft also weakened language addressing whether nations should include quantifiable ways to reduce their emissions. The new draft uses “may” instead of “shall,” leaving the door open for undefined emission plans.

Environmental groups roundly criticized the plan, claiming that it does not go far enough to ensure that the expected Paris agreement will effectively address emissions reductions on a global scale. The chief of climate policy for WWF, Sam Smith, said that “the text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists called the agreement “watered down from what [they] expected.”

Others, however, we quick to praise the agreement, saying that while it is impossible to please everyone, the draft does address the general concerns raised by the delegates. Chief US negotiator Todd Stern called the deal “quite good in the end,” and the conference president, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, said that “with this text we all win without exceptions.”

It remains to be seen how the Lima agreement will shade the Paris talks in 2015. The initial optimism faded quickly, and the agreement may not lead to the large emissions reductions that many feel are necessary. However, the agreement does provide a framework for moving forwards, and there is hope that reduction pledges will be large, and that financial assistance will be provided to those nations that most need it.

Lima ends with climate agreement, but the future remains uncertain

Alison Singer

Alison Singer has been writing about environmental issues for years, and has a particular interest in climate change. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she works for the US Government and writes for a variety of organizations.

Category: Sustainability