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Rising Optimism

The 20th session of UN climate negotiations starts today in Lima, Peru. Negotiators and diplomats from around the world are optimistic. The Guardian reports that this is “the best chance in a generation of striking a deal on global warming.

After a 20-year standoff, diplomats and longtime observers of the talks say there is rising optimism that negotiators will be able to secure a deal that will commit all countries to take action against climate change.

The climate talks (lasting from December 1-12) are meant to lay the foundation for a new universal climate change agreement in Paris in 2015, to come into effect in 2020.

The renewed optimism stems from the recent US-China deal which will see the US reduce its emissions by 26-28 percent from its 2005 levels by 2025. China will cap its output of emissions by 2030 and pledges to increase its use of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2030. The EU has already committed to emissions cuts of 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

Don’t Cop Out!

The challenges for negotiators are formidable. More than 190 countries are working on multiple drafts for a climate agreement intended to be adopted in Paris in 2015. Getting all countries aboard prior to Paris2015 will be a crucial test for the Lima conference. The landscape of climate talks dating back to 1992 is littered with failures.

During the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, countries agreed for the first time to take action on climate change by reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The agreement however was not binding. Nothing changed and emissions continued to rise.

In 1997, almost 200 countries signed the Kyoto Protocol which included legally binding targets for the reduction of emissions. Although considered a tremendous success at the time, Kyoto has become a disappointment. The US never ratified Kyoto and Canada officially pulled out in 2011. Developing countries like China, India and others were excluded from Kyoto. Little has changed and emissions continue to rise.

In 2009, the hope to negotiate binding targets at the Copenhagen Summit died as the conference collapsed in disarray. The best that could be achieved was the signing of a non-binding pledge to keep temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius. This political compromise allowed some delegates to leave the conference with a twisted sense of accomplishment but most delegates left in utter despair.

Experts now agree that the current emissions trajectory will take our planet beyond the 2 degree Celsius threshold to a 4-6 degree Celsius warmer future. This would represent an existential crisis for many of the species on the planet including humankind. But countries continue to ignore their commitments and emissions continue to rise.

To Climate Negotiators in Lima: Don't Cop Out!, boomer warrior

The Concern of Youth

Anjali Appadurai was a 21 year-old Canadian college student when she attended the 2011 UN climate conference in Durban (South Africa). In her Get It Done speech delivered to conference attendants on behalf of young people, Anjali said:

You have been negotiating all my life. In that time you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.”

Anjali was born the year world leaders began climate talks and negotiations with the goal of preventing global warming. Over two decades have gone by and emissions continue to rise.

The Crisis Treatment

Negotiators must give this round of talks the crisis treatment. There is no time left for humanity to procrastinate and obfuscate. Climate talks have been ongoing since the nineties and after 20 years of discussion, there is little to show for it. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Convention says it well:

Never before have the risks of climate change been so obvious and the impacts so visible. Never before have we seen such a desire at all levels of society to take climate action. Never before has society had all the smart policy and technology resources to curb greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience. All of this means we can be confident we will have a productive meeting in Lima, which will lead to an effective outcome in Paris next year

At the end of this historic opportunity to save humanity from the perils of climate change, I and millions of others around the globe, will look to the Lima delegates and ask this question:

History knocked on your door, did you answer? ~ Naomi Klein

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Rolly Montpellier, boomer warriorRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a blogger and an Climate Activist. Rolly has been published in several online publications – Climate Change Guide, World Daily, Examiner, The Canadian, 350Ottawa, ClimateMama, MyEarth360, GreenDivas, The Elephant, Countercurrents, Georgian Bay News.

Some of Rolly’s articles have also appeared in newspapers such as The Hill Times and the Kingston Whig. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Linkedin.


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11 COMMENTS

  1. Succinct, Rolly. Nice. Thank you.

    It’s all about RCP2.6, the IPCC’s best-case scenario. If they don’t adopt it (or, ha ha, something better, like the CAN International position statement) as the starting place for the Paris agreement, we’re hooped. RCP (Really Cool Plan 😉 2.6 is the only IPCC scenario that can keep us under 2ºC. We really should be chanting and shouting “RCP2.6! RCP2.6!” in the streets and from the rooftops and balconies of Lima.

    Every COP, I get my hopes up. Every year, I think the women there will rise up and say Enough! I need to protect the children! And so each year, I publish this plea:

    http://blog.greenhearted.org/2014/11/one-week-until-lima-copenhagen-redux.html

  2. Greenhearted (Julie) – I like the link you shared. I will carry it on BoomerWarrior as well.

    I agree with you about the role of women in climate change activism. There are thousands, indeed millions like yourself, who are making a difference. Women have a special place in our societies when they speak about the future of their children and grandchildren – that message is stronger when it has a female perspective. Let’s face it! We men have (for the most part) been “at the wheel” during the past century during which our environment has been abused, exploited and sacrificed in the pursuit of a competitive economic growth paradigm that is destroying the planet.

    COP20 will lead to COP21 in Paris. This is a crucial first step. We cannot blow this up.

    Thanks for your support. BTW, do you have a real good link for RCP2.6?

  3. Like the blog link too, Green hearted!

    My biggest hope, is that the talks in Lima, focus on real strategies to bring about clean, poison free, technologies that will totally replace our current polluting energy production systems. That there will be a breath of fresh air as people discuss how to bring back symbiotic balance and a stable biodiversity to our lovely, life-giving planet.

    My biggest fear, is that they will talk only about how to offset the effects of war, displacement, and poverty which are the current topics of debate over the changing climate. Putting out fires, does not stop them from starting!

  4. I have been involved with the citizens of Missouri for over 40 years as member of the department of conservation. Historically, the public has been conservation minded and environmentally active.
    However. For the past 15 to 20 years, there has been a significant conservative shift in the electorate, now greatly manifest in the pros and cons of global warming. The so called deniers are of a singular mindset that has tainted the thinking of our elected officials both in the state General assembly and in the congressional delegation.
    Although this is a tough period to be a carbon reduction advocate, this octogenarian has seen this before from the materialism of the 1950’s to the environmental movement of the 1960’s.
    Can it happen again? I believe so, but it will take constant pressure in the right places to institute a change in attitudes. So hang tough folks, the cause is just.

  5. There’s a context to look at all this in. It’s called magnitude. It is good that we can say that the the Lima and the Paris talks will likely be the most successful to date. The US/China agreement is a great thing to carry into all of this as well. HOWEVER, putting this into the context of the actual magnitude of our situation, I am sorry to say it means little…in reality. A good start yes, but that’s only if you have a finish that allows lots of time to get there. By what is proposed so far we will run out of time long before we do the finish. Therefore, we have to demand much, much more. Even though those we demand from are sincerely thinking they are up to speed, they are clearly not. There is a line to cross, it is something like a minimum 80% reduction by 2025, China ain’t even getting started until then and neither is the US. Europe’s 40% by 2030 and more specifically from 1990 levels is the best thing going, but dammit, it’s still worthless.

    • Danny – thank you for your comments.

      I agree with the “magnitude” of the problem. We could have and should have started to talk about pricing carbon decades ago. World governments have been negotiating for over 20 years and yet now at COP20, we are speaking of hope. Is it a little too late for that? I think not.

      I see a wave of support emerging for the pricing of carbon. I see populations around the globe demanding action. The dire predictions we face are alarming but you must never give up Danny.

  6. Hmmm Danny, I think you’ve hit the proverbial “nail” on the head! Most countries are pledging $$$ for the future with little concern for the present. It seems like they are adopting “a wait and see” strategy, as though global warming trends will miraculously reverse themselves.

    But how does one make the world’s political elites make the necessary legislation to penalise polluters and dirty energy and industry, and reward new innovations that move us to a balanced economy, green living, proper use of carbon sinks, environmental habitat protection and sustainable resources? It is a tall order for most countries already dealing with crippling debt, political cat-mouse games, and an overwhelming fear of terrorism!

    • Colette – see my response to Danny Heim’s comments.

      There is no miracle or silver bullet or magic technology that will save us from ourselves. We can’t wait for world leaders to save us. No one is coming to help us. We are on our own. And it’s only with the types of collective actions we’re seeing around the globe – large social movements, social media, protests – that humanity will force world governments to take action on climate change.

      Much needs to be done. I recommend Naomi Klein’s book “This Changes Everything” which points out that globalization, capitalism, unbridled consumerism – our very social and economic fabric – are the primary cause of global warming. It’s an eye opener.

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