Lima climate talks: Narrow outcome gives more clarity on path to Paris

Sea temperature map

A map at the Lima climate negotiations shows sea surface temperatures around the world. Source: Flickr (UNclimatechange)

The annual United Nations climate talks concluded in Lima, Peru, with a narrow outcome that provides some additional clarity on the path to finalizing a new climate agreement next year in Paris.

Nations were able to make limited progress on the modest goals expected of them, including:

  1. clarifying how countries will report their “intended nationally determined contributions” in early 2015; and
  2. identifying the main elements of the agreement to be negotiated next year and wrapped up in Paris.

When the talks ended well past their Friday deadline, Nathaniel Keohane, Vice President for international climate said:

The foot-dragging in Lima is out of step with the urgent signs of climate change that are already apparent in Peru’s melting glaciers and threatened fisheries, as well as around the globe. To finalize an effective climate agreement in Paris next year, negotiators will have to move past the tired tactics and old ways of thinking that were on display these last two weeks.

We will not solve climate change with a single UN agreement. What an agreement in Paris can do is build a structure that spurs countries to be more ambitious, makes them accountable for their progress, and gives them the confidence that other countries are taking action as well.

With each passing year, more and more momentum on climate change is building outside the UNFCCC. The UN talks remain a valuable forum — the one place where all countries come together to discuss climate change. But as we have seen in the past few months, there are now multiple ways forward on climate change, including direct cooperation between nations, action by states and provinces, and engagement by the private sector. To make progress at the scale and pace required to meet the challenge of climate change, we need to take advantage of every pathway we have.

State, provincial governments increasingly visible

A striking aspect of these negotiations was the increasing presence and visibility of state and provincial governments, who are not formal participants in the talks but in many cases are implementing climate policies of their own.

The progress made in states and provinces underscores a growing theme: Despite the slow pace of these talks, momentum continues to build on climate action outside the UN negotiations.

Examples of momentum happening outside the UN process include:

  • Public and private sector actors came together at the Leaders Summit in New York in September to launch a number of “working coalitions” on deforestation, agriculture, oil and gas production.
  • The U.S. and China announced major actions on climate change in November.
  • California will have the world’s first economy-wide emissions trading system beginning next year, as it extends that program to include transportation fuels.
  • California and Quebec held their first joint auction last month, cementing the year-old linkage between the two states’ emissions trading programs.
  • Ontario announced in Lima that it will host a Climate Summit of the Americas in July, focused on building subnational action.

Derek Walker, Associate Vice President in EDF’s U.S. climate and energy program said:

Momentum is building in North America on climate action and carbon pricing. State and provincial leaders do not have to wait for Washington or Ottawa or the UN to take action. They are seizing the opportunity that is in front of them and taking concrete steps to build thriving low-carbon economies.

Now going into 2015, countries need to focus on creating an agreement that facilitates domestic climate action, fosters accountability and increasing ambition, and supports adaptation in the poorest, most vulnerable nations. Learn more about EDF’s policy initiative to create “A Home for All: Architecture of a Future Global Framework for Mitigation,” at

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