'Lima COP on verge of failing people and the planet,' say activists


Lima Head Gear

Lima, Peru – The 20th Conference of the Parties (COP-20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is supposed to wrap up today. The headline is taken from a press release from the activist group, the Third World Network. They, along with other activists and envoys from developing countries, are not happy about the direction in which the negotiations are going here at the COP. Why? In a word, money.

The COP was chiefly convened to set up a formal system under which countries make pledges before March 2015 about how they plan to handle climate change, most especially their greenhouse gas emissions cuts. Secondly it supposed is to approve a draft negotiating text for the global climate change agreement that is to be adopted next year at the COP in Paris. It looks like a Paris text will be accepted since it is mostly an un-curated wish list of possible policies. Nothing is excluded, so every country can hope for a nice policy gift just before Christmas next year in Paris.  

This afternoon featured a succession of press conferences at which various activist groups and self-styled representatives of civil society got to throw the moral equivalent of temper tantrums. I have now covered nearly ten of these meetings and the endgame always, always, always comes down to a fight over money. The rich countries refuse to pony up as much as the poor countries think they deserve. So perennially disappointed activists are again furious that the rich countries are not making explicit promises to supply billions in funds to help poor countries. Here are some representative comments:

Lidy Nacpil from Jubilee South Asia Pacific: "We demand a finance roadmap—when and how much they [rich countries] will deliver on their financial obligations before 2020."

Jagoda Munic, Chairperson Friends of the Earth International: "The inaction of wealthy nations at the UN climate negotiations is outrageous. It flies in the face of the most vulnerable countries and communities suffering from the climate crisis. This is climate injustice."

Samantha Smith from the WWF's Global Climate and Energy Initiative: "We are not seeing the political will, the money, and the urgency that the climate crisis all around us demands."

John Foran from the International Institute of Climate Action and Theory at the University of California, Santa Barbara: "The problem is that the neoliberal capitalist economy is at war with the planet and its people."

Michael Dorsey from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and Sierra Club board member: "We are on a course for low ambition; we are on a course for a Paris agreement with no binding commitments."

Pascoe Sabado from Corporate Europe Observatory: "We have to accept that climate change is not about the climate; it is about the economy. Climate change is about system change."

A leaked memo from the so-called like-minded development group of countries – basically some 40 of the world's poorest countries—suggests that they may not agree with the proposals being put forth here and so COP-20 could end with no decisions on how to proceed to the negotiations in Paris. This kind of threat surfaces at every COP, so it's doubtful that they will carry through with it, but we'll see.

I will analyze whatever is decided here at the COP next week.