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7 ways Lima climate talks set the stage for Paris 2015 action

From financial frameworks to the role of cities in global climate talks, the COP20 UN meeting laid the groundwork for a new international pact.

This story was originally published by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and is reprinted here with permission.

Following two weeks of difficult negotiations and a nail-biting finale, international delegates at the United Nations' COP20 climate conference in Lima, Peru laid the groundwork for a successful international agreement in Paris next year.

More than a full day after the talks in Lima formally ended, delegates sealed the deal on two main tasks at COP20:

- They decided on a draft text which will be used as a basis for negotiations leading up to the December 2015 Paris summit;

- They agreed on what information countries must share as they prepare their national climate action plans beyond 2020. Countries are now hard at work figuring out what targets and actions they can share by March or soon after.

The momentum heading into Lima was already significant. In September, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets around the world to demand action. Companies and investors declared their commitment to a low-carbon world, while cities showcased their climate leadership on the world stage at the New York Climate Summit.

Last month, the United States and China — the world’s two largest emitters — broke new ground with an unprecedented agreement to curb their emissions, shortly after the European Union announced its target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

And dozens of countries pledged a total of $10 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help countries prepare for climate impacts and make the transition to a low-carbon economy. These developments set the stage for important outcomes both inside and outside the UN negotiations in Lima.

Leaders from South America (Chile, Colombia, Mexico) played a particularly important role both in their support for the Peruvian presidency but also through specific announcements to take further action.

Here’s a breakdown of the most significant developments from Lima at COP20, which was the 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): highlights from the draft negotiating text; information and assessment of countries’ actions; finance; adaptation and loss and damage; pre-2020 ambition; forests and restoration, and cities.

1. Generating momentum for a low-carbon economy

The most inspiring development in Lima was an outpouring of support for a long-term effort to reduce emissions. Over 100 countries now advocate for a long-term mitigation goal. This would send a strong signal that the low-carbon economy is inevitable.

Support grew for establishing regular cycles to review and strengthen countries’ actions to curb emissions, adapt to climate change and support low-carbon growth. These cycles of improvement are critical to ensure the Paris agreement drives climate action for not years but decades to come.

2. Assigning accountability

At last year's COP19 UN climate gathering in Warsaw, it was decided that every country should offer an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, by March 2015 (for those in a position to do so.) A key issue in Lima this year was how countries’ proposed contributions will be presented and assessed before Paris. The outcome adopted is a very important step that requires countries to provide significant information when they put forward their proposed contributions, such as key details about the sectors and gases that are covered and methodological and accounting approaches.

In addition, countries will have to describe how fair and ambitious their actions will be. WRI’s Building Climate Equity report provides a useful tool to compare different ways of defining equity. This information will help enable comparisons amongst countries’ actions and clarity about how countries’ collective efforts add up to meeting the goal of keeping global mean temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). This is one of the most important parts of the Lima agreement as countries develop and submit their INDCs in March 2015.

Although the requirements are not mandatory, they lay the foundation for a transparent post-2020, and will assist in creating peer pressure between countries as they prepare their national contributions. The Lima decision also includes a mandate for the UNFCCC Secretariat to publish an analysis that aggregates all the contributions – providing a benchmark for how they add up, or not, to staying below the dreaded 2-degrees celsius global temerature increase.

Unfortunately, the agreement failed to create a forum for countries to present and discuss their contributions. This is a missed opportunity for a constructive discussion to build understanding and confidence. This decision could have also included an opportunity for the public to comment on national contributions, but that proposal did not survive the negotiations.

These issues could be included in the Paris agreement itself and will likely be key topic for negotiation in 2015. It will be vital to have a more robust assessment phase to view and ramp up ambition.

3. Finding the money

The Lima talks were buoyed from the start by major contributions to the Green Climate Fund in the weeks before COP20. With additional contributions in the second week of the negotiations, the fund crossed the $10 billion mark. This was an important milestone to both demonstrate the confidence of donor countries in the GCF and build trust with developing countries that the funds would flow.

A total of 27 countries pledged contributions, including five developing countries: Peru, Columbia, Mexico, South Korea and Mongolia. These resources offer a strong foundation for the Green Climate Fund to start committing resources to urgent priorities on the ground, from building climate resilience to helping foster low-carbon economies and technologies.

Inside the negotiations, progress was slow on how to further fund climate action. But there was an agreement around the elements of a negotiating text that will form the basis of next year’s Paris Agreement, including crafting a post-2020 regime on finance. More work is needed to outline how developed countries can fulfill their 2010 commitment to mobilize at least $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020.This is key to building trust in negotiations and securing broad support by all countries for low-carbon and climate-resilient transformation.

Outside the negotiating rooms, a number of important announcements and discussions spurred momentum. The International Development Finance Club announced that it committed $89 billion to climate finance in 2013 -- almost four times what the multilateral development banks (MDBs) provided.

Much more progress on finance is required to secure a global agreement in Paris. While the basic elements of a draft negotiating text are in place, negotiators will need to work hard over the next year to decide on what the Paris Agreement will specify about sources, channels, allocation, and levels of climate finance in the post-2020 world. Negotiators will need to find a balance between what they desire and what is feasible. Collaboration and compromise will be essential to mobilize more climate finance and galvanize a shift of trillions of dollars from high-carbon to low-carbon economic growth.

4. Adapting to climate impacts

The Lima conference arguably saw more serious attention to adaptation than any previous conference of the parties to the UNFCCC. Developing countries pushed for adaptation to get equal billing with mitigation in the Paris agreement, raising its profile to new heights. The strong interest in adaptation in Lima – where adaptation negotiating sessions were standing-room-only – is undoubtedly connected with the urgent need to respond to severe climate impacts countries are already facing, from record-breaking floods and scorching heat waves to a steady increase in sea level rise.

A hard-fought decision in Lima was whether to include adaptation and mitigation in countries’ national contributions. Some developed countries wanted to limit national contributions to mitigation only, but developing countries argued that their efforts to build resilience to climate impacts should be recognized. In the end, countries decided that adaptation can be included but offered limited guidance on what information should be provided on adaptation efforts.

How these contributions might be assessed remains unclear. However, negotiators did achieve clarity in two areas: They agreed to improve the process of how national adaptation planning is reported and they affirmed a work plan to focus on the issue of loss and damage -- how to address the consequences of climate change that cannot be fully addressed through adaptation (i.e. the submergence of islands in sea water, the loss of crop varieties in a region, etc.).

Over the next two years, countries will map out loss and damage activities and needs, develop analytic tools and share best practices. Between now and the Paris meeting, negotiators will aim to accelerate efforts on adaptation and loss and damage by determining how to:

     - Unpack a global adaptation goal in the Paris agreement;
     - Structure a continuous improvement cycle for adaptation that builds on national adaptation planning and contributions;
     - Secure the foundations to address the loss and damages that occur when adaptation and mitigation fail to prevent climate change impacts;
    - Ensure that developing countries have enough resources to build resilience to climate impacts.
Loss and damage is a fundamental issue for many delegations, and in a final intervention, Tuvalu made a particular case for it to be included directly in the Agreement in Paris.

5. Balancing short- and long-term action

Beyond the issue of the post-2020 agreement, there was a big focus in Lima on what additional actions countries could take now to seize opportunities to cut emissions further and faster. An entire track of negotiations was dedicated to advancing this important issue.

Over the last year, a series of technical expert meetings brought to light promising ways countries can shift to low-carbon economies. In Lima, the UNFCCC established a process to use what they learned to spur more ambitious short-term climate action.

Countries decided to continue to share their experiences to curb emissions, identify the best policy options to achieve the highest mitigation potential and continue technical expert meetings about action through 2020. The Lima Climate Action High Level Meeting highlighted the actions of the private sector, pension funds, cities and indigenous peoples and started the tradition of having a high level forum every year. With this new forum, on-the-ground progress will fuel the climate talks for years to come.

6. Refocusing on forests

Last year, REDD+ made so much progress — on financing, transparency and safeguards, and monitoring and verification — that there wasn’t much left to do at this climate meeting. One of the few REDD+ topics discussed in Lima was further clarifying safeguards. Countries ultimately decided not to elaborate more on this point. While some countries found this disappointing, others interpreted this to mean that countries can decide for themselves how to report on safeguards.

In addition, Brazil, followed by Indonesia, Colombia, Guyana, Malaysia and Mexico, took the next step of submitting their reference levels to benchmark their emissions from deforestation. Those actions should pave the way to start receiving performance-based payments for forest conservation and restoration.

Just as notable were innovations showcased outside the official COP at the Global Landscapes Forum. By far the biggest development was the launch of Initiative 20x20, a Latin American country-led initiative to restore 20 million hectares of degraded land – an area larger than Uruguay. Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Costa Rica and two regional programs announced ambitious plans to reforest areas to help capture carbon, enhance biodiversity, improve livelihoods and make agricultural lands more productive. Five impact investment firms joined the effort by committing $365 million in activities to recover cloud forests, avoid deforestation, boost climate-resilient sustainable agriculture and more.

New advances in satellite forest monitoring and carbon mapping were unveiled at Lima, along with a new partnership between Global Forest Watch with the Peruvian Forests and Wildlife Resources Control Agency (OSINFOR) to share data and expanded monitoring of Peru’s extensive forests.

7. Adding cities to the conversation

On December 8, mayors and experts converged on the historic City Hall of Lima to share experiences and advance local climate action. Over the course of that day, participating cities — including Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City and many others — highlighted best practices, committed to step up efforts to curb emissions and called for greater ambition at the international level.

The most significant outcome for cities in Lima was the launch of the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) which was developed in partnership by WRI, C40 and ICLEI. The first step to take action on city emissions is to identify and measure where they come from, but that has proved challenging without a consistent way to measure city-level emissions. The GPC resolves that problem, offering the first global emissions standard for cities to consistently track their performance and set credible emissions reduction targets.

Global Climate Agreement Within Reach

Though much hard work remains, the Lima climate summit brings a global climate agreement in Paris within reach.

As delegates and stakeholders head home and begin to envision a positive outcome for Paris, WRI has contributed to a comprehensive proposal, Elements and Ideas for the 2015 Paris Agreement. Published in Lima by ACT 2015, a global consortium of think tanks, the Agreement on Climate Transformation 2015 (ACT2015) recommends long-term goals on mitigation and adaptation and five-year cycles for assessing countries’ actions.

Informed by hundreds of negotiators, government representatives and stakeholders around the world, the proposal offers a realistic pathway to securing an agreement that can stand the test of time and help make the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.

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