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Special> UN Climate Change Conference 2014> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: December 20, 2014 NO. 52 DECEMBER 25, 2014
An Arduous Tug of War
As climate change's effects intensify, nations inch toward a common emissions reduction target
By Deng Yaqing

YOUTH IN ACTION: Foreign students and representatives sing at a climate change event held in the stronghold of the Chinese delegation to the COP20 in Lima, Peru, on December 5 (XU ZIJIAN)

After a 32-hour delay, the annual UN climate talks finally came to a close in Lima, Peru, when Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal struck the gavel in the wee hours of December 14. Formally known as the COP20, or the 20th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the two-week-long negotiations involved negotiators from more than 190 countries and organizations. Its conclusion marks a step forward to a new agreement addressing climate change, which is tentatively scheduled to be passed at the end of 2015 in Paris and go into effect in 2020.

"Humans clearly influence the climate system, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in an assessment report released on November 2.

The agreement reached by climate negotiators in Lima put forward a wide range of options for a global pact to be reached in Paris, which will aim to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Each participating nation is directed to submit its own plans for curbing global warming in the first half of 2015.

"Developing countries have shown their utmost sincerity and left no stones unturned in achieving positive and balanced results at the conference. However, limited progress has been made by developed countries in realizing the emissions targets laid out in the Kyoto Protocol Amendment," said Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation and Vice Minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), noting that negotiations at the Paris conference would be arduous and should be carried out in a determined, ambitious and flexible manner.

"The result is not perfect, but in the interests of all parties, making sure that all the people will do more to cope with climate change," said Brazil's chief negotiator José Antonio Marcondes de Carvalho, who expected a more ambitious result.

EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete believes the new draft in Lima has laid a solid foundation for reaching an agreement in Paris next year by determining the elements that should be included in it.

Divisions and contradictions

"Postponement is almost a rule of climate change negotiations," Xie said before the convening of the Lima conference. This time, longstanding divisions between developed and developing countries again kept them from reaching an agreement at the set time.

The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities—the "red line" for many developing countries—was not reflected in the preliminary draft of the Lima deal, so it was not approved by all parties. With Manuel Pulgar-Vidal coordinating and meditating the interests of all the countries, negotiators decided to include the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities into the agreement by quoting the related statement in a China-U.S. joint announcement on climate change that was released on November 12. China and the United States "are committed to reaching an ambitious 2015 agreement that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances," according to the joint document. Moreover, other elements of major concerns were brought back to the table, such as the loss and damage mechanism advocated by the Alliance of Small Island States.

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