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UN opens climate talks in Lima, Peru

December 2, 2014

Representatives from nearly 200 countries have met in Peru to begin a 12-day conference on climate change. Scientists warn of catastrophic consequences should global temperatures continue to rise.

Peru Klimakonferenz in Lima COP 20
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Aguilar

Delegates from 195 countries met in the Peruvian capital on Monday, on the start of a major UN climate conference.

The representatives have gathered for the twelve-day UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-20) conference to work towards drafting an agreement that is set to be signed next year in Paris. The agreement would go into effect in the year 2020.

"We want you to enjoy the hospitality of our country's people, but at the same time we hope you find the trust, the comfort and the will to attain the concrete compromises that the world needs," Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal said as he opened the conference.

He noted that the window was closing in the fight against climate change. "We may not allow this chance to slip by," he said.

Scientists have warned that the world must limit temperature increase to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The current course will boost temperatures far beyond that, triggering what scientists warn will be drastic global flooding, massive drought, melting polar ice and huge threats to human populations.

"The window for action is rapidly closing," Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told delegates on Monday.

The panel says it is nearly 100-percent likely that man-made emissions are the number-one cause of global warming and that 2014 may eclipse 2010 as the warmest year on record.

Top two polluters on board

Last month, the worlds top polluters China and the US agreed for the first time ever to set targets to curb global warming. US President Barack Obama announced a US target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping said China would peak its CO2 emissions by around 2030 and that it would increase its non-fossil fuel share of energy to 20 percent by that same year.

November's announcement, which had been unexpected, gave hope ahead of climate talks in Peru.

"I think we are coming into the event with a head of steam that many of us weren't really expecting," said Dirk Forrister, president of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), in a briefing to reporters last week.

But Michael Mueller, chairman of NaturFreunde Deutschlands (German Friends of Nature) was more skeptical about the weary ritual of recurring climate conferences.

"First, the drama of the threat is cited, then there are warnings against expecting too much, and then come the blockades and hurdles, and finally the minimal results are interpreted with a promise that it will be better the next time," he said.

sb/av (dpa, Reuters)