Opening plenary of Cop-20 in Lima, Peru.

Time running out to avoid climate disaster

03.12.2014

The window of opportunity to reduce emissions and avert climate disaster is rapidly closing, said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peruvian Minister of Environment and President of COP-20, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru.

Nevertheless, speaking at the opening plenary of COP-20, which runs from 1 to 12 December, Pulgar-Vidal tried to strike an optimistic tone, insisting that flexibility and compromise can make progress possible.

The main expectation for this COP is to lay the groundwork for a new binding global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions to be signed, if all goes well, at COP-21 in Paris, 2015.

The parties have spent the last five years since COP-15 in Copenhagen trying to rebuild a global consensus after national leaders failed to agree on a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which set internationally binding emission reduction targets and expired in 2012.

However, there are some encouraging signs. The Green Climate Fund is finally starting to receive significant contributions although still far from sufficient. The European Union has come out with its latest climate commitments and plan; and the USA has reached an agreement with China on greenhouse gases.

On a more somber note, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, gave a brief overview of the latest scientific findings from the Fifth Assessment Report authored by 803 scientists and commented on by over 150,000 others. He stressed that if temperature increases are to remain below the 2C° target, GHG emissions need to decline by 40-70% by 2050, relative to 2010 levels, and reach zero or negative levels by 2100. These objectives are still possible to reach with existing technologies, but after 2015 may not be.

As always, IndustriALL's objective is to monitor the direction of the talks and insist that the social dimension of sustainability be given full weight in the debates. The consequences for working people, their families, and the communities that depend on them; implications for poverty alleviation, development, human health and human rights - these are not trivial side issues but are fundamental to finding a solution that can be implemented.