International Climate Accord Reached in Lima

Known as the Lima Accord, after the capital of Peru where representatives from 200 nations met for two weeks, a deal was reached to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in preparation for talks to be held in Paris in December. But is it strong enough?
December 16, 2014, 7am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"(A)fter more than 36 straight hours of negotiations, top officials from nearly 200 nations agreed to the first deal committing every country in the world to reducing the fossil fuel emissions that cause global warming," writes Coral Davenport, climate and energy reporter for The New York Times, in an analysis of the accord reached under the UN Framework on Climate Change.

Unlike prior agreements, the accord reached at the culmination of the Lima Climate Change Conference on December 14 (which began December 1) "is the first time that all nations — rich and poor — have agreed to cut back on the burning of coal," writes Davenport. It "will form the basis of a sweeping new deal to be signed in Paris in 2015."

The strength of the accord — the fact that it includes pledges by every country to put forward a plan to reduce emissions at home — is also its greatest weakness. In order to get every country to agree to the deal...the Lima Accord does not include legally binding requirements that countries cut their emissions by any particular amount...

So, if not legally binding, where are the teeth? Jennifer Morgan, an expert on climate negotiations with the World Resources Institute, a research organization, explained that the accord "relies on a lot of peer pressure,” writes Davenport. Each country's plans "would be posted on a United Nations website and made available to the public." The premise is that rather than sanctions, the agreement will compel countries to act to avoid international condemnation.

The structure of the deal is what political scientists often call a “name-and-shame” plan.

Not all were happy with the agreement. Ben Jervey of Grist writes that the talks were "invigorated by the recent agreement between the United States and China" but ended with disappointment.

On early Sunday morning, delegates delivered a vague, four-page document that does little more than set the terms for what the parties will be battling over at the next big summit in Paris a year from now.

He is not alone. Geoffrey Lean, green columnist for The Telegraph, also refers to last month's U.S.-China agreement and feels let down by the Lima Accord. "The sclerotic UN climate negotiating system, which has now run for 22 years with little concrete result, rapidly reasserted itself.," he writes.

Note from New York Times: "A version of this article appears in print on December 15, 2014, on page A3 of the New York edition with the headline: A Climate Accord Based on Global Peer Pressure."

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Published on Sunday, December 14, 2014 in The New York Times
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