Rough seas ahead for climate talks, Paris deal still on the horizon

Media Releases article written on the 14 Dec 2014

Australia was one of the worst offenders when it came to throwing up roadblocks and frustrating progress at the UN climate talks which concluded late today with little progress. 
Another year of increasingly extreme and destructive weather and new political momentum was not enough to boost the ambition of the talks, with decisions made in Lima leaving many crucial issues to be resolved ahead of Paris.   
Oxfam’s climate change policy expert Kelly Dent, who is in Lima for the talks, said the outcomes of the meeting should be read as a call to action for people around the world to build a stronger movement to counteract the narrow interests of governments that are preventing action.
“Australia attended the talks and that’s about the most positive thing that can be said about the country’s role in the process,” Ms Dent said.
“Australia’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund was an important step, though overshadowed by the fact it was drawn from our diminishing aid budget, and fell well short of Australia’s fair share.
“Australia must return home and begin working in earnest to prepare its contribution to the Paris agreement. It also needs to decide how it will steadily increase support to poorer countries to tackle climate change.”
Australia announced its targets for post-2020 and the first phase of the Paris agreement will be prepared by a taskforce to be established within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and will be revealed in mid 2015 – some time later than the March deadline that Governments have been encouraged to meet.
“It is vital that this process for determining Australia’s post-2020 targets be transparent, guided by science, and consistent with the international goal of limiting warming to less than 2 degrees. It must lead to an ambitious contribution in line with our responsibilities as a developed country,” Ms Dent said.
In its overall analysis of the Lima outcome, Oxfam said the package agreed puts in place a draft of a Paris Agreement but with little attempt to minimise the difficult political issues that have plagued global efforts to address climate change over recent years. 
The deal does not require that the initial pledges countries make in 2015 reflect their fair share, or have any mechanism to review whether they will prevent catastrophic warming or not. Furthermore, nothing was done to increase short-term ambition, which scientists warn is necessary.
Before the talks, $10 billion in pledges were made to the Green Climate Fund, creating space for negotiators to focus on how developed countries would scale up to meet their $100 billion promise. However negotiators did little to move forward on this issue, with the text giving no assurances that developed countries are ready to deliver on their existing financial promises.
“We will not get an agreement in Paris without progress on climate finance and what Lima delivered is simply not enough,” Ms Dent said.
 Oxfam said the lack of compromise from Australia and many other governments contrasted with some Latin American countries, who showed a consistently constructive attitude, and also contrasted with the strong ambition from Pacific countries.
“Climate change is a major threat in the fight against hunger and poverty around the world. And in the wake of recent extreme weather events such as typhoon Hagupit, the need to slash emissions and support vulnerable communities with managing climate risks is clearer and more urgent than ever,” Ms Dent said.
“Many fragile island nations and poor countries fought hard to make Loss and Damage – initiatives that protect communities that cannot adapt to the unavoidable impacts of the already changing climate – a central part of the Lima decision. But developed countries consistently blocked. 
“The outcome here does little to break the world from a path of warming which would threaten the lives of millions of people around the world, increase poverty and hunger, and halt economic growth in its tracks. Fifty million people could be pushed into hunger in the coming years on the current trajectory.
“We hoped for a course correction here in Lima, but negotiators seem content to sail on into the storm.”
Ms Dent said governments were simply not reflecting the growing will of the people, however the burgeoning call for action from around the world is a sign of hope.
“We saw half a million people take to the streets in 2014 to demand climate action followed by the largest ever climate march in Latin America this week,” she said.

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