New Climate Agreement is a Step Forward, But is the Step Big Enough?

By Darren Orf on at

A mini drama just played out in Lima, the capital city of Peru. More than 190 countries have agreed to a tentative deal to lower carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020. The salvaged agreement, which was threatened by clashing views from the U.S. and China (of course!), will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris next year.

In other words, this two-week-long Lima talk was only the preamble to the big show that will creating binding international law on how we, as humans, can stop fucking up our planet. These talks come only a month after a U.N. panel, tasked with conducting the science behind why our planet is warming and provides answers to how we can stop it, pleaded with politicians to get it together and figure something out, as bureaucratically and inoffensively as possible. But the message was clear: climate change is now irreversible and we need a binding plan to stem the damage.

Many pointed to the Peru talks, which wrapped up earlier today, as a sign if that call would ultimately fall on deaf ears or if climate leaders could rally together a plan for the crucial convention in Paris. Agreement is a good sign, but it also matters exactly what they agreed to. According to the BBC, here's the breakdown:

  • An "ambitious agreement" in 2015 that reflects "differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" of each nation
  • Developed countries to provide financial support to "vulnerable" developing nations
  • National pledges to be submitted by the first quarter of 2015 by those states "ready to do so"
  • Countries to set targets that go beyond their "current undertaking"
  • The UN climate change body to report back on the national pledges in November 2015

First, the positives. One of the many critiques of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 was the lack of accountability for developing nations in contrast to developed ones. The Wall Street Journal says those decades-old concerns returned on Saturday, when talks were supposed to conclude, with several countries stating they had the right to carbon-based industrial growth to raise their nations out of poverty. After some revised language, including that countries would have "common but differentiated responsibilities," the talks were successfully concluded.

Of course, that all depends on your definition of "successful." While policy makers were celebrating the agreement, environmental groups were much more pessimistic. BBC News reports that World Wildlife Fund and the Friends of Earth International called the agreement "very weak" and a failure to deliver a "fair and ambitious outcome."

This agreement in Peru marks the beginning for countries to develop their environmental plans for next year's convention. It's there where we will really see if Peru was the beginning of something great or another entry in a growing list of disappointing environmental law. [BBC News/The Wall Street Journal]