Modest Deal Reached at UN Climate Conference in Lima

After two weeks of negotiations, a global agreement – however modest – was reached at the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru this weekend.

The deal, known as the Lima Accord, marks the first time in history that all nations have agreed to reduce their rates of greenhouse gas emissions. Up until now, only developed nations had been required to act.  Since the UN first started holding climate change conferences in the mid-1990s, many of the larger less developed nations, including China, India, and Brazil, have become industrial powerhouses adding significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.  In fact, China is now the world’s largest carbon polluter.

Under the current agreement, every country will submit an “intended nationally determined contribution” or INDC.   These are essentially plans, due in the spring, in which individual countries spell out how much CO2 emissions they propose to cut after 2020 based on their own domestic economic and political situations. Collectively, these independent plans will form the framework for a global climate treaty set to be finalized at the UN Climate Conference in Paris late next year.

While this bottom-up approach helped secure the participation of all countries, it is not legally binding and leaves countries with the latitude to make as little a contribution as possible. That said, this new accord cuts through some of the historic blame game and recognizes climate change as a global problem that requires a global solution. The question is, will the proposed aggregate reductions in greenhouse gases be enough to meet the current international goal of limiting global warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels and stave off the worst impacts of climate change?