climate

Two weeks of UN climate negotiations open in Lima today. The talks in Peru are intended to deliver a draft text to be adopted in Paris next year (#COP20) that will commit countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Observers are reporting that recent actions by the US and China have injected much-needed momentum. Lang Banks opens our series of blogs from Lima. Lang is the director of WWF Scotland and is part of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland delegation to the UNFCCC. Follow all the latest from Lima on Twitter: @LangBanks and @sccscot

I’ve arrived in Lima, Peru, where the 20th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP20) begins today, and will continue through long days and nights for the next two weeks. As you can probably guess, the UNFCCC COP process is a world of acronyms, texts and draft texts, Annexes, Workstreams and Protocols. But at the heart of it all is a very basic question: will the governments assembled here put in place the necessary measures and provide sufficient finance to ensure that a global climate deal can be concluded in 2015?

Peru itself is a country of 30 million people – almost six times the population of Scotland- and is jaw-droppingly diverse. From the Pacific Ocean in the west, to borders with Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile, the Andes mountain range, Amazon Basin, glaciers, over 50 ethnic groups and unique species such as the famous ‘Paddington’ spectacled bear- Peru is a kaleidoscope of diversity. In a continent where the impacts of climate change are already being felt, from megacities to rainforest, we are also seeing, as in Scotland and around the world, increasing public and political momentum behind action for change.

Scotland has a fascinating climate action story to tell too, with some of the most ambitious climate targets in the world. By representing Stop Climate Chaos Scotland – a diverse coalition of over 60 organisations campaigning together on climate change – here in Lima, we can showcase that ambition and take the voices of thousands of people from across Scotland right to the heart of the negotiations. But in Scotland as in Lima, work needs to be done by governments to turn ambition into meaningful action.

The Scottish budget currently going through Parliament, for example, must be sure to be coherent with our emissions reductions, energy efficiency and renewables ambitions, if we are to unlock the social, environmental and economic benefits of a low-carbon economy. Governments assembling in Peru’s capital city in over the next two-week must similarly build an agreement which paves the way for genuine progress.

Lima is important, and action here is urgent, because it is the last meeting before the COP 21 in Paris in December 2015, where world leaders need to conclude a global deal on climate. As environmental charities, scientists, and world leaders converge in Peru, we’re starting from a more positive place than previous COPs. We’ve seen the big hitters, China and the US, make public pledges on their readiness to commit to emissions reductions. We’ve also seen pledges from countries, including the UK, on their contributions to the Green Climate Fund- the global fund to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, and ensure low-emissions development.

These moves will help mitigate frustrations many developing countries have expressed with the industrialised nations’ perceived failure to move fast enough, as well as setting the tone for ambition, equity and progress at these talks. The political momentum is building. These moves, however, should be seen as ‘opening bids’ rather than the end of the story. It is essential that governments make climate change a top political priority and leave Lima with a strong foundation for success in Paris.

By the end of the Lima talks, we need to see significant increases in industrialised nations’ emissions reductions commitments if we are to get anywhere close to closing the ‘gigatonne gap’- the gap between what we are pledging to reduce and what science says we must reduce. We must also agree a global goal- including finance- to help the poorest and most vulnerable around the world adapt to the impacts of climate change; and finally we must make sure that science and equity are the foundation stone of the global deal which must be concluded in Paris this time next year.