The saving grace in the climate change talks at Lima has been that they were not a total disaster as they were threatening to be. The talks had started on a note of despondency. The atmosphere on December 1 was such that all were more or less sure nothing would come out of them. During the 13 days it was becoming the routine picture of the developed countries being pitted against the developing ones. The creation of groups such as ‘like-minded developing countries’ added to the vagueness, which was exemplified in the way the Philippines walked out of the grouping. However, the developing countries are said to have gained a victory with the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ having been included in the final draft, taking into account the divergent development patterns. There was also the proposal of introducing a plan for an evaluation of emission reduction by developing countries. It has been dropped because it could not be linked to provision of finance by developed countries. However, the developed countries too had their share of victories. There was no roadmap laid down on finance and there was no obligation on their part as regards loss and damage.
One takeaway from Lima has been that India and China were on the same page on most of the issues. This is particularly reassuring because China has just signed a climate deal with the US and in terms of the pact China’s emissions are supposed to peak by 2030. India has set itself no such target so far. Before the Paris meet at the end of 2015, all the countries are supposed to present their ‘intended nationally-defined contributions’, which are a set of binding targets they must set for themselves. These are as relevant as they could be problematic one year later. Remember the US did not sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1997? And one way to institutionalise climate change talks is to hold them in the way of WTO rounds of negotiations. The UN Framework for Climate Change Convention must examine the gains arising out of the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols.
Even at the cost of repetition, it should be stressed that climate change knows no boundaries. Hence all countries should think beyond themselves and long-term. Changes in weather patterns that affect one country today might affect another later. For example, an interesting feature in Lima was that learning to live with an extent of climate change was the concern of developing countries. But to what extent? The cost that looks small now may not be so 30 years later. And there is no point being sheepish now on the question of the growth vs environment debate. For the greater good of humanity, all must be prepared to make sacrifices.