Months after the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, national representatives from around the world met in Lima, Peru to discuss an international plan for dealing with climate change. The goal was to develop a framework for an upcoming conference next year.
These meetings, colloquially referred to as COP (Conference of Parties), have taken place every year since 1995. December 2015 is the deadline for a global commitment that will bind the world and set it on the path to limit the temperature rise to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees C) in order to stop the dire, large scale human and environmental cost of doing nothing, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The nations of the world will meet in Paris at that time to close the deal on a new international climate agreement that should set the world on a course of actions that avoid dangerous climate change.
Most scientists agree that if no actions are taken to curb the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the planet will warm by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century.
“We already have the finance and proven technologies needed to do what is required now,” said Christine Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, in a press release. “The challenge and the opportunity is to increase the speed and scale of action and to make full and comprehensive use of the tools and the levers of international cooperation.”
The conference in Lima, which took place over the last two weeks was intended to set the stage for the upcoming Paris talks. But with more than 190 countries with different goals and different economic trajectories represented, reaching an agreement was a lengthy process and the meetings lasted two days longer than originally intended.
At conferences in the past, many developing nations felt that developed nations should carry the burden of reducing emissions since developed countries are the main reason why the world is in trouble today. This issue was also raised in Lima.
But 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from 10 countries, both developed and developing, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report added that collective action from developed countries as well as emerging economies will have to pledge to make significant changes to their emissions.
“The core task of climate change mitigation is decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from the growth of economies and population,” said Youba Sokona, Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre, at a press conference.
Ultimately, a deal was reached - and signed - by all members of the meeting. The deal includes pledges to reduce emissions and funding for countries who need assistance to reach emission reduction goals.
"As a text it's not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties," said Peru's environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who chaired the summit.
Countries also reached the Green Climate Fund goal of $10 billion by 2014.
“A global climate agreement is now within reach," added Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute. "While more hard work remains, negotiators found common ground on the most pressing issues. This emerging agreement represents a new form of international cooperation"
Despite a deal being reached, many environmental groups are dissatisfied with the outcome, saying that developed countries need to raise their level of commitment to battling climate change. The deal was also criticized for being 'weak,' and using language that did not lock countries into decisive action. For example, countries were encourage to submit emissions reduction goals in the first quarter of 2015 if they are 'ready to do so.'
"The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it's very weak indeed," said Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the World Wildlife Fund.
There is a lot of work left for the Paris conference next year if the world wants to commit to limiting the effects of climate change.