UN climate talks kicks off in Lima amid call for ‘urgent action’

UN climate talks kicks off in Lima amid call for ‘urgent action’

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By Saleem Shaikh

LIMA, Peru: The UN climate talks (COP20/CMP 10) began here on Monday amid a rousing call for ‘acting urgently’ on climate change and support for the victims of climate change.

The COP 20/CMP 10 is poised to deliver pre-2020 action, set the ground for a strong Paris agreement and increase ambition over time, ultimately fulfilling a long-term vision of climate neutrality in the pursuit of sustainable development.

At today’s opening plenary session of the UN climate negotiations, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres emphasized, “The current year is likely to be the hottest year on record and emissions continue to rise. We must act with urgency.”

“Here in Lima, may we find inspiration in the enduring Nazca lines, may we find the perspective to see our path forward and may we find the determination to meet the climate challenge,” she added.

Figueres told the charged global audience that there is urgent need to yield lines of action on climate change that are as indelible over time as the Nazca lines.

“We must emulate the hard work it took to engrave these lines into the soil, embody the tenacity of those who carved them, and create global climate and development agendas with the durability of this ancient art form,” she said.

The UNFCCC’s general secretary said that several critical lines of action must be drawn here which include: to bring a draft of a new, universal climate change agreement to the table and clarify how national contributions will be communicated next year; secondly, to consolidate progress on adaptation to achieve political parity with mitigation, given the equal urgency of both; Thirdly, the delivery of finance must be enhanced, in particular to the most vulnerable and; finally, ever-increasing action be stimulated on the part of all stakeholders to scale up the scope and accelerate the solutions that move us all forward and faster.

Earliest, outgoing COP 20 president, Marcin Korolec, from Poland and and present COP20 president from Peru, Pulgar-Vidal, also addressed the plenary session, respectively.

In his moving address to the opening session of COP20, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra K. Pachauri, said each of the past three decades has been successively warmer than the preceding decades since 1850 and added that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the major cause of warming since the mid-20th century.

“More than 90 percent of the energy accumulating in the climate system between 1971 and 2010 has accumulated in the ocean,” Pachauri said and highlighted that land temperatures remain at historic highs while ocean temperatures continue to climb.

Some of the extreme weather and climate events observed since about 1950 have been linked to human influence, he argued.

While drawing global attention to the threats in case of ‘no action’ on spiking levels of emissions, Rajendra K. Pachauri said that with letting global carbon emissions level rise, oceans will continue to warm during this century, arctic sea ice cover will continue to sink as temperatures rise, global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century and global glacier volume will further shrink.

“The potential impacts of climate change include food and water shortages, increased poverty, increased displacement of people and coastal flooding,” he underlined.

Pachauri was heard saying that the stabilization of atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, which involves moving away from business-as-usual, regardless of the mitigation goal, can help cope with these climate impacts.

“Limiting the temperature increase to 2 degree Celsius by the end of this century will involve measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent to 70 percent by 2050 over 2010 levels and zero or negative emissions by 2100,” he said.

Spelling out mitigation and adaptation options, Pachauri said that a combination of adaptation measures and substantial, sustained reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can limit climate change risks.

Though reducing greenhouse gas emissions poses substantial economic, social, technological and institutional challenges, ambitious mitigation is affordable, he insisted.

He argued that it translates into delayed and not foregone growth (economic growth reduced by 0.06 percent of business-as-usual growth of 1.6-3.0 percent annually).

Estimated costs do not account for benefits from reduced climate change, he added and warned that holding back mitigation will substantially worsen the challenges associated with limiting temperature increase to 2 degree

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About author

Saleem Shaikh

saleemzeal@gmail.com

The writer is a guest speaker on climate change and disaster reporting at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) – Islamabad. He is also a media trainer, freelance climate change and development science writer.