ClimateWire's Friedman previews Lima talk outcomes, road to Paris treaty

As international climate negotiators convene in Lima, Peru, to advance the discussion toward the next climate treaty, what role will the United States play in creating a draft of the final deal? On today's The Cutting Edge, ClimateWire deputy editor Lisa Friedman previews the Lima meeting and explains why Green Climate Fund financing could make or break a final treaty deal in Paris next year.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the Cutting Edge. International climate negotiators are convening in Lima, Peru, to advance the discussion towards the next climate treaty. ClimateWire's Lisa Friedman heads to Lima today. Lisa, big-picture, how important is this meeting, and what do we need to see happen?

Lisa Friedman: Thanks, Monica. Frankly, this meeting in Lima is important because next year's meeting in Paris is critical. Diplomats are in Peru right now this week and next trying to hammer out a new agreement that they hope will be signed in Paris this time next year, and there's a series of decisions that need to get made. Each on their own are not blockbusters, but collectively they will set the table for the Paris agreement. Probably the biggest thing that needs to happen in the next few days is that negotiators will have to complete a draft text that they'll refine over the coming years but which will be the template for what the new agreement will look like. Whether or not they're able to accomplish that will directly influence whether or not we'll see a global climate deal next year.

Monica Trauzzi: Where will the biggest disagreements be?

Lisa Friedman: There are a number of them, so I'll focus on what I think is the biggest one and which is overriding, and that's something that they call equity. This new deal has the potential to look very different than anything the world has seen before, very different than the current Kyoto protocol, which mandates that only developed countries should cut emissions. How this is going to play out, though, is very messy. When countries agreed to start working out this new deal, they said that it would be applicable to all under the convention. And I like to tell people that sometimes understanding the U.N. needs a decoder ring. The United States likes to focus on the first part of that sentence, "applicable to all." They want all countries under this new agreement to cut emissions, maybe not at the same levels as the United States or other rich countries but certainly under the same legal standards and certainly China, India, the big emerging economies.

Developing countries, many of them, like to focus on the second part of that sentence, applicable to all "under the convention," which is the U.N. framework convention for climate change and which many feel refers to provisions that keep everything as it has ever been, with rich countries being formally obligated to take cuts and everybody else acting voluntarily. You're starting to see a breakdown of these traditional battle lines between rich countries and poor countries, developed and developing, but fundamentally these questions of what levels of responsibilities countries of different wealth and development should take are going to bleed into every other fight and be the hardest thing they'll have to deal with.

Monica Trauzzi: So the Green Climate Fund -- congressional approval is needed to meet the president's $3 billion pledge. How critical is that funding to the broader treaty, and how hard is the administration going to be lobbying Congress over the next year in anticipation of that Paris meeting?

Lisa Friedman: That money is the linchpin to a new agreement. Developing countries want to know that the rest of the world understands that they need to boost clean energy in their countries and, most importantly, adapt to the ravages of climate change. The president, as you mentioned, has announced that he will seek $3 billion over four years, and you better believe that other countries are going to be watching our appropriations process. Over the years they've all learned a lot about cloture and what it takes to pass a treaty in the United States, and now they're going to be watching our appropriations process.

The administration's spin has been that Republicans and Democrats alike have funded climate change for international aid over the years, that this is in many ways an extension of funding for a World Bank program that President Bush pushed forward in 2008. The truth, though, is that that World Bank program, the Climate Investment Funds, has never been fully funded. Every year the House strips out money. Senate allies like Sen. Patrick Leahy put it back. Without a Democratic majority next year, it's going to be harder and harder to keep that money and seek new money, but the rest of the world is counting on it.

Monica Trauzzi: So, the U.S.-China deal made big news a few weeks ago, but how significant is it going to be at the Lima meeting? Are people going to be talking about that, focusing on that?

Lisa Friedman: They already are. In many ways, it's huge. On the one hand, it has certainly injected massive political momentum into the talks. It's one of the biggest developments with both the United States and China, their leaders standing shoulder to shoulder, saying that they'll both move forward unilaterally to cut emissions over the coming years. At the same time, what we're seeing in Lima are a number of countries almost downplaying at least the U.S. part of the commitments. There's a real sense of not wanting to let the U.S. off the hook for responsibilities that the world's largest historic emitter, many feel, should be taking. And, frankly, a lot of countries are criticizing the U.S. target. Even as we have Republicans at home saying that the EPA regs that've been proposed through the administration are going to cripple our economy, a lot of other countries are looking in and saying that this target that Obama has set out, 26 to 28 percent below 2000 levels by 2025, is not good enough.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we're going to look for your reporting from Lima. Have a good trip.

Lisa Friedman: Thank you, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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