UPDATE: Negotiators from over 190 countries reached a deal on Sunday morning in Lima that will obligate all nations to combat climate change.
The United Nations conference was extended by more than 24 hours as poor countries demanded that rich countries do more to tackle the global crisis. It isn't clear yet whether the decisions taken in Lima are ambitious enough to contain global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius for averting the catastrophic consequences of climate change.
But climate change experts said that the "Lima Call for Climate Action" will provide a way forward for a final agreement in Paris in 2015.
"A global climate agreement is now within reach," said Jennifer Morgan, Global Director, Climate Program of the World Resource Institute. "In the coming months, countries must propose their climate action plans and hammer out the details of the core agreement."
One Day To Go And There Is Little To Cheer In Lima
The two-week U.N. climate change conference in Lima, which started with a swing in its step after the U.S. and China struck a deal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, has now reached a deadlock as poor countries demand that rich countries do more to combat climate change.
The conference, scheduled to run from Dec. 1 to Dec. 12, has been extended by a day in a frantic bid to reach a consensus to pave way for the critical Paris agreement that will be inked in 2015. Even so, some officials sound decidedly downbeat.
"We don't want to leave Lima with empty hands. We are in a time in which we should take decisions,” Peru’s environment minister Manual Pulgar-Vidal said.
Reaching an agreement in Lima is critical to signing an all-important agreement in Paris in 2015.
United Nations scientists have warned that if the major nations fail to reach a comprehensive agreement in Paris next year, it would be disastrous for the goal to not let average global temperatures to rise by more than two degrees celsius from current levels. Such an eventuality, they say, will result in extreme weather events, devastation of eco-systems, disruption of food supplies and ultimately, social unrest.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that despite more than two decades of climate talks, “we are still on a course leading to a tragedy”.
“Every nation has a responsibility to do its part,” he said in Lima. “The issue affects every human on the planet."
The Paris climate change deal will have obligations for all countries for the first time. The Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty on climate change, made developed countries responsible since these nations pumped most of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since industrial revolution.
But rapid economic development in countries such as China and India have led rich countries to demand that emerging economies also take emissions cuts. The global carbon dioxide emissions will reach a record high of 40 billion tonnes in 2014. The largest emitters are China at 29 percent, US at 15 percent, EU at 10 percent and India at 7.1 percent.
While Beijing has announced its emissions will peak by 2030, New Delhi is in a difficult position—its carbon emissions are growing but India’s growth trajectory is still far behind China. India produces 1.9 tonnes of emissions per person, compared with 16.4 tonnes per person in the U.S. and 7.2 tonnes in China.
“I know this is difficult for developing nations, we understand that, but we have remember that today more than half of global emissions, more than half, are coming from developing nations. So it is imperative that they act too," Kerry said in Lima.
India's view is different.
"While there is often a talk about changed reality, 1 in every 7 persons in the world today still lives in abject poverty. The number of poor people in the world is more than twice the combined population of Europe. All of them are in developing countries," India's environment minister Prakash Javadekar said in Lima.
Despite the pressure on New Delhi from developed nations to reduce carbon emissions, India has aggressively asserted that its priority has to be poverty eradication. India has ruled out any deal similar to the one reached by India and the U.S.
Climate change is expected to be an important component of the bilateral discussions when President Barack Obama visits India to attend the Republic Day parade on Jan. 26.
With one day to go in Lima, the longstanding disagreements between rich and poor countries has blocked progress at the U.N. talks. Poor countries accuse rich countries of diluting the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, which means each country acts according to its capacity to reach a common goal.
“We stand behind the differentiation, we stand behind ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, these are issues we hold very strong and these are definite red lines,” Antonio Marcondes, Brazil’s representative told the BBC.
Media reports from Lima said that most of the negotiating text was in dispute on Friday even as the talks were officially drawing to close on Friday. The Guardian reported that only only one section—paragraph 34—which deals with countries intensifying engagement in the years up to 2020, has been agreed by negotiators on the last day of the conference.
Climate change activists have also criticised the text for being too weak.
The Green Climate Fund, which aims to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 to put developing nations on the path of greener growth, has managed to raise more than $10 billion.
All countries are expected to submit their “national determined” contributions to the United Nations by next year. Rich countries are pushing for these contributions to be only about “mitigation,” which involves the tough task of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, while the developing countries want it to include finances for promoting greener growth and account for the positive effects of adapting to the fallout of climate change by innovative farm strategies and other methods.
India has also strongly opposed a proposal by the European Union for a review of the actions taken by nations on its contributions before Paris.
“We do not see any role for an ex-ante review in this process. The INDCs should include all elements including mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity building,” Javadekar said.
But climate change activists believe that the review is critical.
Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general for the Centre of Science and Environment in Delhi, told HuffPost India that India had not given any reason for opposing the review except that domestic contributions should not be subject to international review.
"The review is the only way for people to judge whether a country’s contribution is fair and ambitious. There is no other way,” he said.