Big break in fight against global warming
NEGOTIATORS from around the globe have reached a climate-change agreement that would, for the first time in history, commit every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse-gas emissions - yet would still fall far short of what is needed to stave off the dangerous and costly early impact of global warming.
Yesterday's agreement, reached by delegates from the world's 196 countries, establishes a framework for a climate-change accord to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year.
While United Nations (UN) officials had been scheduled to release the plan on Friday at noon, longstanding divisions between rich and poor countries kept them wrangling through Friday and Saturday night to early yesterday morning.
The agreement requires every nation to put forward, over the next six months, a detailed domestic-policy plan to limit its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning coal, gas and oil.
Its aim is to limit global warming to 2 deg C over pre-industrial levels, averting potentially catastrophic damage to earth's climate system by the turn of the century.
Those plans, which would be published on a UN website, would form the basis of the accord to be signed next December and enacted by 2020.
That basic structure represents a breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the UN's 20 years of efforts to create a serious global-warming deal.
Until now, negotiations had followed a divide put in place by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required developed countries to act but did not demand anything of developing nations, including China and India, two of the largest greenhouse-gas polluters.
"This emerging agreement represents a new form of international cooperation that includes all countries," said Jennifer Morgan, an expert on international climate negotiations with the World Resources Institute, a research organisation.
"A global agreement in Paris is now within reach."
But to bridge a deep rift between rich and poor countries, the Lima deal came at the price of a compromise.
In the face of opposition from China, it stripped out demands for extensive information about the pledges and tougher scrutiny to see if, jointly, they close in on the 2 deg C target.
The document also does not oblige rich nations to outline aid for poorer countries in their pledges, as the developing world had insisted.
The Lima deal now sends the obligation of crafting a plan to limit carbon emissions back to the capitals of every country - and its success or failure rests on how seriously and ambitiously the presidents, parliaments, and energy, environment and economic ministries of the world take the mandate to devise a new policy.