The latest climate talks by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru, wrapped up on Saturday, December 13 – two days later than expected. The extra time allowed for a lukewarm plan to be formulated, and much action to be taken before the 2015 December Climate Talks in Paris.
The 2015 Paris talks are crucial. In the 2011 Durban Climate Talks, there was international agreement that a new greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction protocol would be formulated, one which was legally binding. This new protocol would be the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, except with broader international support. It was understood that the 2015 Treaty would be the UNFCCC’s last chance to avert more catastrophic events resulting from climate change.
A recurring issue was again at the forefront in Lima: the stark difference between the quantity of GHG emissions and climate change effects on developing vs. developed countries. Should a country in Latin America or Africa be expected to reduce as much as the United States, which has already had a chance to develop its economy and standard of living, and which is responsible for much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? What about climate change impacts that are affecting developing countries disproportionately, which also bear little responsibility for them? What is the role of China and India, two hugely populated countries that are pumping fossil fuel pollution into the atmosphere?
What developed at Lima was not a “one size fits all” solution but a more modest agreement that each country come up with a plan – an “intended nationally determined commitment” (INDC) – of what each can do based on current actions and plans. This agreement requires that every nation present a plan, within the next six months, outlining actions to limit the emissions of coal, oil and gas. These plans will form the basis of an accord to be signed at Paris in December 2015, and enacted by 2020.
One problem with this approach is that it almost certainly will not be enough to keep the planet from warming 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 – the recognized limit in the 2010 Cancun Climate Talks, to avert catastrophic climate impacts.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, with whom Interfaith Power & Light works closely, was present at the Lima talks. “It’s the bare minimum of what we need, but we can work with it to get the pressure on,” said Alden Meyer, president of UCS. He stated further that he expects nongovermental groups, research and policy organizations and universities to perform independent analyses on countries INDC’s to see how the plans stack up with one another.
This “bare minimum” should be viewed as the floor, not the ceiling, of a climate treaty agreement in Paris in 2015. As such, Interfaith Power & Light will continue to challenge faith communities in California – and in its 39 other state affiliates – to be an example of energy efficiency, pollution reduction and advocacy. You can meet that challenge by committing your congregation to a 50% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030, and being carbon neutral by 2050. Click here to take the Paris Pledge.
On Monday, California Interfaith Power & Light staff and steering committee members took part in the California Climate Leadership Forum organized by NextGen Climate America where Governor Brown, Senator de León, Speaker Atkins and other California political leaders all spoke of their commitment to strengthening California’s climate policy post-Lima. Senator de León also announced a new bill calling for California’s public pension funds to divest from coal. Governor Brown admitted that “We’re just at the beginning”and offered hope that California could move to 50% renewable and beyond by 2030. Speaker Atkins spoke of her roots in coal country and how she learned to appreciate strong environmental policies. The Rev. Bryson White of Faith in Fresno took part in a panel and talked about the significant pollution related health impacts in the communities he works with in the Central Valley. Post-Lima and the California Climate Leadership Forum, California IPL will continue to ensure that the voices of faith communities around the state concerned about the climate are represented and heard as we move forward towards a renewable future.
For more information, refer to the following articles:
At Climate Talks in Lima, Only the Arguing Remains the Same (with forward by Andrew Revkin)
Climate Deal Would Commit Every Nation to Limiting Emissions – New York Times
Strange Climate Event: Warmth Toward U.S. – New York Times