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COP 20 in Lima…Insights, Learnings and Outcomes

by Angelina Davydova (ELP 2012), Russia

Delegates discussing the future global climate agreement

Delegates discussing the future global climate agreement

In December 2014, I took part in the UN Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima as a journalist, writing for the Russian and international media. This was already the 7th UN Climate conference for me since I have been taking part in the negotiations either as a journalist or as an observer since the COP in Poznan, 2008. I almost always have this double function – on the one hand, reporting on the climate negotiations with Russian and international media (within Russia’s media landscape, there are just a handful of journalists reporting on the issue; that is why I find it particularly important), and on the other hand – supporting Russian NGO presence at the COP, setting up connections between NGOs in Russia and many other former USSR countries with international civil society groups, including ones from the Global South. I am also part of the NGO delegation of the German-based development service ‘Bread for the World’, working closely with other development partners.

Delegates and observers working outside the plenary hall in Lima

Delegates and observers working outside the plenary hall in Lima

For me, the results of Lima turned out somewhat mixed. On one hand, it was quite significant that the delegates could come up with at least some outcome document towards the end of the conference. Many of us still remember the failure of the Copenhagen conference back in 2009, which brought much disappointment and pessimism. Even as the climate negotiation process has been gaining momentum since then, some basic issues (such as the legal status of the treaty, or sources of financing for mitigation and adaptation measures, including the cover for loss and damage resulting from climate change consequences) still remain to be resolved and agreed upon.

Yet, many experts characterized the final Lima document as “vague” and not substantial enough. While there has also been some progress in the area of financing (including the filling-in of the Green Climate Fund), critics point out, again, that it is not sufficient. The UNEP Adaptation Gap Report, also presented in Lima, for example, has emphasized the gap between adaptation gaps and current reality. According to the report, even if global greenhouse gas emissions are cut to the level required to keep global temperature rise below 2°C this century, the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries is likely to reach two to three times the previous estimates of $70-100 billion per year by 2050 – while public sourced funding for adaptation reached only $23-26 billion in 2012-2013.

Advocacy action by youth delegates making an action

Advocacy action by youth delegates

Yet, for me personally, one of the most important outcomes of Lima was to see how much is actually being done in the areas of low-carbon development and climate change adaptation in many countries, regions, cities and communities all around the world – from small-scale renewable energy solutions to coastal cities adaptation strategies, and from local “smart” water-saving networks to organic agriculture practices. And it is exactly here that cities and localized communities take the lead – where ministers, governments and nation states fail. All these processes probably take us down a completely new path of global and local governance, new kinds of development, new approaches to sustainable and socially just economic growth. Many of these approaches are still being defined or are at early stages of execution and offer immense hope for the future. That is why, visiting many side-events at the COP, such as the People’s Summit, brought to me some highly needed optimism, which otherwise, are often lacking at the formal negotiations.

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