The Politics of Mitigation and Adaptation

Post by Dawn Wells

Here in Lima, Peru for COP20, delegates from 194 countries are gathered for the UN Climate Talks.  The last couple of days have been focused on completing the first round of negotiations of the draft text for a new global climate agreement.  This draft text will guide the elements of the full text, that will ultimately provide framework for the 2015 agreement.

Two major areas of focus have been examined. Adaptation and finance, which started on Tuesday, and mitigation which started on Wednesday. At this stage the goal is to get all countries views on the table and reflect it in a way that’s fair by end of COP20. Once this is accomplished refinements to the treaty will begin in the coming year.  According to Union of Concerned Scientists’ Alden Meyer: “The hope of the co-chairs is that they can complete the first round of discussion on both [texts] by the end of this week, come back over the weekend with two revised texts that reflect the input from all the parties, get down to detailed negotiations next week.”

Disputes about procedure dominated discussions on the intended nationally determined contributions (INDC).  Governments were looking to move from a verbal discussion into line-by-line analysis of the text. The negotiations so far have been directed at mitigation, while finance and adaptation were neglected. Developing countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate impacts and are more concerned with the finance necessary to implement climate action, beyond their existing development needs.  Line-by-line negotiations tend to be more equitable and allow developing countries to have a better chance to have the text reflect their needs in the 2015 agreement.

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There are valid concerns that having a line-by-line analysis of the text, will make the process move too slowly and all of the points that need to be covered here in Lima, will not be reached. However, so far all of the political energy and momentum has been focused on the U.S.-China Joint Announcement and the EU 2030 package, which are primarily focused on mitigation. Mitigation is a priority for industrialized countries since, the concern is how developing countries are going to cut their emissions. Adaptation and finance is a larger concern for developing countries and ultimately, attention needs to be more balance in this direction.

Many different views were expressed, but one country that sparked attention was Switzerland, who threatened to pull out of a financing agreement with developing countries if they kept pushing for more attention. The US pushed to delete sections they didn’t like and felt were controversial. While its fair for countries to oppose ideas, its inappropriate at this stage for countries to attempt to remove items from the discussion, since the purpose of these initial meetings is to simply have everyone’s views fairly expressed. Switzerland was awarded the “Fossil of the Day” since they were pushing the hardest with their agenda.  The Fossil is an award given to mock countries that slow the negotiation process and was started by Climate Action Network (CAN) International in Bonn, Germany at COP5.

Another important mechanism that needs to come out of Lima is the development of a climate finance road map that gets us from this year’s near $10 billion in pledges to the $100 billion in annual climate finance promised by industrialized countries by 2020. These negotiations moved forward in the UNFCCC’s subsidiary bodies and will make up an important part of the political package for next week. The hope of the co-chairs is that they can complete both discussions on the text elements and draft decision and get into detailed negotiations with the COP President and the Ministers by Friday or Saturday.

Outside of the negotiation halls, much of the focus was on the role that youth have to play in the UN process. Young people are important stakeholders and will be dealing with the externalities of using fossil fuels for generations to come. Youth are demanding from their country’s delegation to phase out of fossil fuels as early as possible.  Other actions were in support of Peru’s Ashanika indigenous community.  International activists joined in a procession with the widows of activists from this community that have been murdered from standing up for environmental justice.

Other notable announcements so far have been from the World Meteorological Society (WMO) that the oceans are the hottest now than ever before recorded. The International Environmental Agency (IEA) came out with a report that 80% of emissions gap can be met by taking measures that have no impact on GDP. And finally, the Philippines are having another super typhoon, a visible impact of climate change. Heherson Alvarez, Climate Change Commission Philippines
stated that “COP20 should send a message to the world to ‘Cut carbon fast.’”

IISD Photos

COP20 Flickr

Dawn Wells, Economics and Sustainable Development degree candidate at Columbia University, Program Assistant at Center on Global Energy Policy, CUCSD Co-Chair and COP 20 Delegation Member