Lima climate conference goes into extra time | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 13.12.2014
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Environment

Lima climate conference goes into extra time

The UN climate summit, like its predecessors, has been extended into the weekend. There were reasons to be optimistic, but the delegates of the 195 countries haven't managed to get their work done in time.

The "spirit of Lima," the "great launch," a "new era of climate protection:" This climate summit was expected to be a successful top-notch conference.

Beforehand, after years of blocking progress at the climate talks, China and the US had promised to be more proactive. But the longer the conference went on, the more old conflicts came up.

On one side of the conflict line there are industrialized nations, reluctant to curb their carbon emissions, on the other side stand developing nations who are interested mainly in compensation for climate impacts.

One could still claim that this conference had a "new spirit." Has the American secretary of state ever taken the stage of a UN conference to vigorously call for climate action? It seemed to be showtime when John Kerry delivered his speech, as a crowd of journalists and bodyguards followed him to the press conference.

"We simply don't have time to sit around going back and forth about whose responsibility it is to act. Pretty simple, folks: It's everyone's responsibility," said Kerry.

And, referring to the developing countries, from which he expects more effective climate action, he added: "Rich nations have to play a major role in cutting emissions, but that doesn't mean that other nations are just free to go off and repeat the mistakes of the past."

Hendricks: 'We will make it'

On Friday, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks sat in the office of the German delegation and tried to cheer everyone up.

"Paris is still far away, but we will make it," she said. Paris is the host of the next climate conference in December 2015. Officials hope to sign a new climate treaty there that will require countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. All countries are supposed to sign this agreement, and the purpose of the climate summit in Peru is to pave the way for the treaty.

Lima - COP 20 Minister for Environment Barbara Hendricks

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks sees good reasons to be optimistic

Under the old climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, just 38 nations had promised to curb their emissions. Those were the richest nations, or rather the ones who were thought to be the richest at the beginning of the 1990s. But the world has changed since then: Today, developing and emerging countries, mainly China, are responsible for more than half of the annual emissions.

Negotiating and haggling

At climate summits delegates negotiate, bargain, haggle, and this one is no exception. Who will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to what extent, who will provide financial support to the countries of the global south?

China does not want to be counted as an industrialized nation. Neither does Saudi Arabia, which is particularly absurd. The Europeans are asking the US to have their climate pledges assessed by international experts. Will they really keep their promises? At this point, even Kerry can't keep up the high spirits.

The matter in hand is so complex and contradictory that the negotiations are expected to drag on until late Saturday. It's not clear what will come out of the meeting, but the delegates have been given a watered-down version of the original draft conclusion. The only comfort is that the "spirit of Lima" is still there. Nobody opposes the new treaty as a matter of principle.

Bärbel Höhn, a member of the German Greens and head of the environment committee in the German Bundestag, believes that this is not a result of the actual climate summit. In her view, it's rather the current developments in the energy sector that are having a positive effect.

"Renewable energies have become a lot cheaper, they are a real alternative to coal and nuclear energy. And the bigger countries face problems with their coal power plants," she said. "In China for example, health is a big issue. All this is convincing governments to protect the climate in their own countries, and that way, progress is being made on global climate protection."

Still, the Lima round of climate negotiations has to be brought to a conclusion. The delegates still have another round of tough negotiations ahead of them.

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