Venezuela and Peru compete to host 2014 UN climate talks

By Guy Edwards

Next year a Latin American and the Caribbean country will host the annual UN climate change negotiations or ‘COP20’ of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Rumours are circulating that Peru and Venezuela are interested in hosting COP20. As the 2015 deadline to create a new global climate change treaty looms closer, Peru appears to be the stronger candidate.

The Climate Action Network argues that hosting a COP requires considerable work to get a credible outcome based on environmental integrity and adept diplomacy.

COP presidents need to set aside national interests to address the concerns of all countries and find workable and constructive compromises.

Domestic action is also critical for the global fight against climate change, as the UNFCCC chief, Christiana Figueres, suggests it “opens the political space for international agreements and facilitates overall ambition.”

Venezuela’s lead climate negotiator Claudia Salerno embodies the country’s approach to the climate talks. (Source: Flickr/IISD Reporting)

Previous COP presidents show how difficult it is to get the balance right.  Yet with three COPs left before the 2015 deadline, effective climate diplomacy emphasizing urgency, ambition and equity has never been more important.

In 2009, the Danish presidency of COP15 turned into a fiasco when a draft negotiating text was leaked leading to uproar and acrimony among developing countries which had not been consulted.

A year later at COP16, Mexico’s diplomatic triumph for rescuing the negotiations offers important lessons on how pivotal a proactive and diplomatic a COP president can be.

In 2011 at COP17, South Africa was also credited for its careful management of the proceedings, while last year at COP18, Qatar was criticized for its lack of leadership and dragging its feet on domestic climate action.

Venezuela is a critical voice at the climate talks demanding climate justice and ambitious emission reductions from developed countries.

But at the national and international levels, Venezuela’s vehement discourse on climate justice is not backed up by strong action at home or high ambition for all countries at the UN talks, which undermine its bid to host COP20.

Venezuela has announced plans to create a national mitigation plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions but ruled out imposing reduction targets or removing fossil fuel subsidies.

Critics comment that Venezuela’s national plan lacks detail and that the government has shown little real interest in tackling the issue.

Mediator’s role

Venezuela has a dubious record on encouraging dialogue between developed and developing countries, which is urgently required to achieve a 2 degree temperature limit.

Its tendency to bash the rich countries for failing to do more to reduce emissions is justified but inappropriate for a COP president in a process where diplomacy, consensus and compromise are crucial.

Venezuela has recently begun to participate in the Like Minded Group alongside China, India, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Bolivia. The group was formed to maintain the North versus South divide and respect for the important concepts of equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities.

However, even though the Like-Minded countries are part of the G77, they can no longer assume the support of other G77 countries at the climate talks.

Lima leadership?

Peru offers a different reality. In 2008 at COP14, it became the first developing country to offer a voluntary emissions reduction target. Peru’s 2020 pledge includes reducing the net rate of deforestation of primary forests to zero by 2021.

Alongside Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Guatemala and Panama, Peru emerged at COP18 as part of a new group, the Association of Independent Latin American and Caribbean states (AILAC).

The group is attempting to build bridges and break down the North-South firewall and promote the case for all countries to take on binding obligations.

Peru also participates in the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action alongside its AILAC partners and various countries including Australia and the United Kingdom. The Dialogue is not an official group, but serves as an informal space to hold discussions on how to build consensus at the negotiations.

Peru’s flexible interpretation of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities and that all countries – developed and developing – need to act to varying degrees to reduce emissions places it in a stronger position to host COP20.

In 2010 Peru’s Ministry of Environment published the Plan of Action for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change (Plan CC). According to the Adaptation Partnership report 2011 Peru is a leader in South America on mainstreaming adaptation into policies.

Following a process of decentralisation, regional governments in Peru have responsibility for managing the environment, but climate change legislation is driven at the national level. The decentralization process has not been smooth and the level of implementation of the National Plan of Reforestation has been very low.

Latin ambition

For both Venezuela and Peru, climate change is more of a foreign policy concern than a national priority. Hosting COP20 could substantially increase government action, investment, media attention and civil society participation in climate-related activities for the successful candidate.

Venezuela may occupy the moral high ground on issues such as deep emission cuts for developed countries but its reluctance to offer voluntary emission reduction targets and its membership in the Like-Minded Group weaken its candidacy.

Peru’s willingness to put forward a voluntary emission reduction pledge, its membership in AILAC and in the Cartagena Dialogue suggest it is more likely to push for deep emission cuts and consensus among all countries.

No COP president can expect to save the planet singlehanded.

Urgency, ambition, equity and diplomacy are all required to help establish the conditions for a successful treaty negotiation. En route to 2015 to create a new treaty, Peru’s offer to host COP20 is a step in the right direction.

This article first appeared on Intercambio Climatico and has been reproduced with the author’s permission.

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