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20th Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru

Background: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repetitively concluded that climate change is a fact: temperatures are increasing, extent and volume of snow and ice are decreasing, sea levels are rising and weather patterns are changing. Human activities are considered to be the main dominant cause, therefore a responsibility exists to undertake some actions to reduce the levels of CO2 emissions; and at the same time, these mitigation actions would help reduce the impacts of the increase in global temperatures on our own societies.

20th Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru

IPCC’s projections for future climate scenarios show that, if emissions continue the current rising trend, we could be facing increases in global average temperatures of between 2.6°C and 4.8 °C by the end of the century. The specific effects of this temperature rise are not entirely clear; however, societies, ecosystems and economies will most certainly be strongly impacted by it. In this context, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed on the target of keeping the temperature increase below the 2°C. Furthermore, to achieve this, global greenhouse gas emissions would have to peak and decline by the end of this century (ECOFYS, 2014).

During the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19), held in Warsaw in 2013, it was decided that all UNFCCC Parties in a position to do so should initiate or intensify the preparation of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). The INDCs are the contribution in terms of reducing national emissions that countries -both developed and developing- can add to the global efforts to mitigate climate change. They will provide an important indication on whether the global mitigation ambition is in line with the 2°C target and they should be submitted by the first quarter of 2015. The INDCs will be a key input for the development of the new 2015 Agreement on Climate Change for the post-2020 period, which should be adopted at the COP21 in December 2015 in Paris and which will come into force in 2020.

20th Climate Change Conference of the Parties 

The twentieth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP20), better known as the UN Climate Change Conference, took part in the capital of Peru from the 1st to the 12th of December 2014.  In Lima, more than 190 countries and some 11,000 delegates from all over the world were negotiating for two weeks about the elements and ground rules of the new 2015 Agreement on Climate Change which should be signed in Paris next year. The overall goal was to obtain a clear draft of the universal agreement and a shared determination by all to deliver significant national contributions to build a low carbon resilient future. Lima was a crucial moment on the road to the Paris 2015 Climate Agreement, and they had the task to raise ambition and to put the world on track to a low-carbon, sustainable future. 

The main outcome of the conference was the “Lima Call for Climate Action” where governments agreed on ground rules for Contributions to the Paris 2015 Agreement. During the conference, countries also made significant progress in elevating adaptation to climate change onto the same level of importance as mitigation. Another remarkable outcome of the COP20 was the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), a fund created to help developing nations to tackle climate change, that reached its start-up goal of US$ 10 billion. Thanks to the contribution of 27 countries, the GCF will start financing projects next year.

In parallel to the negotiation process, many side-events were taking place on several topics related to climate change, allowing countries to show their progress in e.g. developing their INDCs. Institutions were offering guidelines on how to develop them and organizations and projects were simply opening the floor for discussion and exchange of lessons learned during the process. A great deal of information was being shared between countries in this conference and a positive atmosphere about reaching the target was perceived. Now we can only wait until December this year, when the COP21 will take place in Paris and see what countries are able to bring to the table in terms of their mitigation contributions.

By Sofia Gonzales, Elite Graduate Program Global Change Ecology