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Peru Summit: Over 190 nations negotiate historic climate deal

Last updated on: December 02, 2014 13:20 IST

The 12-day meeting has to agree on a draft agreement which would form the cornerstone of a historic deal to be signed in Paris in December 2015 and take effect by 2020.

Street performers look at Greenpeace environmental activists dressed up as a polar bear in Prague October 13, 2014.

Image: Street performers look at Greenpeace environmental activists dressed up as a polar bear in Prague October 13, 2014. Photograph: David W Cerny/Reuters

Amid rising emissions and 2014 threatening to be the hottest year in history, India and representatives from over 190 nations began talks at the United Nations climate summit on a new ambitious and binding deal to cut global carbon emissions ahead of next year's deadline.

The 12-day meeting has to agree on a draft agreement which would form the cornerstone of a historic deal to be signed in Paris in December 2015 and take effect by 2020.

During the opening ceremony, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres asked negotiators to ‘make history’ at the Peru Summit.

"We need to put on the table the draft of a new universal climate agreement," she told delegates.

"The year 2014 is threatening to be the hottest year in history and emissions continue to rise. We need to act urgently."

NASA's DHC-3 Otter plane flies in Operation IceBridge-Alaska surveys of mountain glaciers in Alaska.

Image: NASA's DHC-3 Otter plane flies in Operation IceBridge-Alaska surveys of mountain glaciers in Alaska. Photograph: Chris Larsen/NASA/Reuters

UN-member states have vowed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.            

Last week, the US scientific agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had warned that the world could witness the hottest year this year with the first 10 months of 2014 being the warmest since record keeping began more than 130 years ago.

The average global temperature between January and October has been 0.68 degrees Celsius higher than the 20th century's average global temperature of 14.1 C.

The Peru summit comes weeks after US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart signed a historic deal in November under which the US would reduce emissions by 28 per cent by 2025 and China would reduce emissions by 2030.

The agreement between the two biggest polluters will provide momentum, and pressure, for other countries to announce similar plans.

 The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, scientists said.

Image: The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, scientists said. Photograph: NASA/Handout/Reuters

As the third-largest emitter, India is at the forefront of the conference because it has yet to announce a post-2020 climate action plan.

How India reacts to the recent US and China climate deal is the focus of many at the Lima talks as it is seen as the country with the potential for the largest impact on future emissions and the fate of a cohesive Paris agreement.

Figures said that any Intended Nationally Determined Contributions countries need to make sure 'adaptation is at the same level as mitigation', an important negotiation sticking point for India and other developing countries.

She also noted that developed country negotiators should strive to 'strengthen the financial capacity of the most vulnerable.'

At least half a dozen Indian delegates are currently in Lima to begin the talks, but Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar is set to arrive during the second week of the conference for ministerial-level meetings and negotiations.

India is already facing the consequences of climate change

Image: India is already facing the consequences of climate change. Photograph: Jayanta Dey/Reuters

The atmosphere at the conference remains a positive one, despite the opening plenary remarks of Dr Rajendra Pachuari of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who said, ‘the human influence on the climate system is clear.’ 

Pachauri noted in grim detail that ‘greenhouse gases have continued to grow much larger in speed and rate’ this past decade than the previous three decades and that the world only has one thousand gigatons of CO2 left in its ‘carbon budget.’

He explained that the ‘budget’ is an approximate maximum amount of carbon dioxide that could be emitted over a period of time, while still staying within the 2 degree Celsius breaking point.

He said that countries do actually have the ability to ‘limit the effects of climate change’ but targets must be ambitious and decision-making must be quick and ethical.

Smoke billowing out from the Wallow Wildfire surround trees in Eagar, Arizona.

Image: Smoke billowing out from the Wallow Wildfire surround trees in Eagar, Arizona. Photograph: Reuters

All parties seem eager to avoid another walk out of developing countries akin to the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen as well.

Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal opened the conference on Monday with a message of unity.

"We want this conference to create the kind of trust, the kind of opportunity and the kind of determination that we need to achieve the concrete agreement that the world needs,’ Pulgar-Vidal said.

India's trust may be fostered with Figueres' announcement to the press that there ‘will be a rule book for INDCs’ by the end of the two weeks in Lima but the review of standards for these domestic plans will necessarily be a ‘gradual process.’

Directed at countries like India who have not announced post-2020 plans, Figureres assured countries that ‘capital will flow and be supportive of political direction’ once that is made clear and codified.

India and other developing countries want these INDCs to focus less on mitigation and more on adaptation mechanisms, binding financial commitments, and technology sharing -- terms which developed countries have been arguing against fiercely for years citing population and economic growth, politics, and global responsibility as reasons.

Images are used for representational purpose

Mythili Sampathkumar in Lima
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