All eyes on Paris: Was the COP20 Summit really that disappointing?

COP20bannerIt is 2015! The year in which the UN will set sail for Paris, where a new global post-Kyoto protocol agreement should be formulated. It is one month after the Lima Conference (COP20 and CMP10), and opinions are divided; skeptics and optimists beat the drums with their future telling and warnings. A major concern seems to be if the 2015 Paris agreement is going to be in the slightest bit ambitious. The main output of this Climate Conference was the “Lima Call for Climate Action”, which was according to many critics a watered down agreement due to all the compromises that had to be made to get it accepted by all the parties. However, when making joint decisions with 194 countries, it seems to me that making compromises is a necessary evil.

Nothing especially glamorous came out of the Lima Conference, but aren’t there some small victories to be celebrated? Yes, there are:

  • There is a draft text formulated which will be used as a basis for negotiations leading up to the 2015 Paris Conference.
  • Because of the Annex I/non- Annex I differentiation and the non-participation of major countries such as the USA, the Kyoto Protocol covered less than a quarter of global emissions. The 2015 Paris agreement takes a big step forward as it is supposed to include all countries under a common legal framework. The form and ambitions of each party’s commitments, however, may vary.
  • The Green Climate Fund (GCF) reached its initial $ 10 billion to help countries prepare for climate impacts and make the transition to a low-carbon economy. A total of 27 countries chipped in, with as main contributors are the USA, UK, Germany and France. Surprisingly also some developing (non-Annex I) countries, such as Mexico, South Korea, or Indonesia also contributed.
  • Brazil, followed by Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Guyana, took the initiative to submit their reference levels to benchmark their emissions from deforestation, clearing the way to receive performance-based payments for forest conservation and restoration.

For the rest:

  • The lack of the usual reference to Annex I/non-Annex I distinction in the Lima Call for Climate Action is a sign of a paradigm shift from a bipolarized regime to a multipolarized one. Also large flexibility is given to countries to customize their own contributions. It means all options are open, there is space for anything. We have to see how this approach works out. Seriously…it can go any way.
  • The Lima Call for Climate Action does not provide a definitive answer on the legal form.
  • Long-term finance stays a critical question with no clear answers. Climate finance is a central topic of the future agreement but no consensus was reached on whether countries should include it or not in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
  • Most of the countries will specify their emission reduction ambitions in their INDCs by end March. There is no guarantee that these proposed emission cuts will be sufficient to meet the objective to limit temperature rise below 2°C. Lima Call for Climate Action does not provide any guarantees on this front, it only stated that the UNFCCC secretariat will provide a synthesis report on this topic by November 2015.
  • The integration of land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) and the REDD+ mechanism into the draft 2015 agreement has not been decided upon. The little amount of discussion about REDD+ focused on clarifying safeguards and not on its inclusion in the draft agreement. This despite the efforts of several countries that pointed to the importance of the inclusion of the REDD+ mechanism, and the need for institutional arrangements for adequate, predictable and sustainable REDD+ funding from public and private sources.
  • Finding common ground for an MRV framework, a necessary ingredient to enforce any law or agreement, seemed to be a tough cookie.

The Lima COP20 was concluded with a lot of work done, and a lot of work to be done. I agree with the critics: we can’t speak about a solid foundation for an international agreement. But there is á foundation, and that holds promise. The Climate brief of CDC Climat put it well:

On the one hand, the weak wording of the decision may appear as the result of a weak consensus – building skepticism on the chance to have an ambitious agreement next year. On the other hand, it may give to countries the needed space to find a strong consensus and reach a meaningful agreement. In short, ingredients of both success and failure are on the table.

Download here the CDC Climat Research, Climate Brief °37 and the unedited version of the Lima Call for Climate Action.


Feel free to share your opinion underneath!


  1. Hi Anne, thanks for the handy synopsis. It is a shame about REDD+ and AFOLU in general because there are so many co-benefits to be had form avoided deforestation sequestering into vegetation and soil.

    After such a long time though, it seems that COPs are not about agreement at all, just the opportunity for countries and cultures to get together and try to understand each other. And maybe that is enough.

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