In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule on Monday that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector 30% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Meanwhile, China hinted Tuesday that it might institute its own emissions cap in its next five-year plan, which will begin in 2016.
Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate change official, praised the US for its actions, calling the new rules “a good signal to nations everywhere” that America is serious about dealing with the threat of climate change. If China were to institute an emissions cap, it could spur other countries to ramp up their actions on climate change in time for the COP21 conference in Paris next year.
Before the potentially pivotal meetings in Paris, though, representatives from the world’s governments will meet in Lima, Peru to talk climate policy. The Lima conference, scheduled for 1-12 December, offers a rich opportunity for climate ministers to lay the groundwork for an ambitious and binding climate treaty.
In the run up to the meetings in Lima, SciDev.Net spoke with Peru’s environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, about the upcoming conference, the international politics of climate change, and technology’s role in confronting the crisis:
What will be hardest topics to agree on at COP 20?
I think they will be the same old topics that have been dragging on since COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009. Those to do with the principles of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’, financing, countries’ legal obligations, technology transfer and international mechanisms to address loss and damage. It is interesting to see the recurrence of these same topics while we are getting closer to the end of the extended ‘commitment period’ that was granted to get a new agreement on climate change. Because of all this, it is a fact that a creative response is needed.
But there are still elements of polarisation?
There are indeed, but it is also very important to approach the discussion as a whole, as an integral problem. Topics like financing are linked to mitigation. This, in turn, is linked to issues such as technology transfer and forests. Financing is also linked to adaptability, which is, at the same time, linked to the most vulnerable countries: the small isolated states. Everything is interconnected. Unless we think of this negotiation as interconnected, we will fail. It is important to see how all these scenarios are integrated so we can obtain a better atmosphere of trust that generates a better understanding.
Are you optimistic about getting an agreement at COP 20?
I really think that the urge for a binding agreement on climate change is going to lead us to achieving that. But I am really certain it is going to have special characteristics: Kyoto is not going to repeat itself, this is a fact! The world has changed. Although there are principles still standing, like the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities, this does not mean that any country could be exonerated from fulfilling its duties.
How can the summit make developed countries, especially the United States and Japan, come to terms with legally binding reductions in emissions?
If we reach a decent level of comprehension about the need for all of us to contribute in one way or another to limit or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to avoid future consequences, we can make it.