Pulgar Vidal: IPCC leaves politicians with “no excuses”

Science report and New York summit sent strong political signals for UN climate deal success, says Peru’s environment minister

Pic:  MINAMPERÚ/Flickr

Pic: MINAMPERÚ/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

The UN’s latest science report leaves politicians with no excuses not to sign the UN’s landmark climate deal in Paris next year,  Peru’s environment minister has said.
Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who will chair this year’s UN negotiations in Lima, said today that the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] was one of the most important political signals yet for a new international emissions reductions agreement.
The report, which is the work of over 830 scientists, was released in Copenhagen on Sunday.“What is the value of that report?” asked Pulgar Vidal, speaking today at Chatham House in London.

“First, the confidence of the science. Second the certainty of the information. And third, which is the most important, is there are political and policy options—so there is no way to excuse our actions.”

The negotiations in Lima this December will be the last opportunity for diplomats to discuss the options for a new UN deal before a final conference in December 2015, when the UN has said they must come to an agreement.

But with just over a year to go, negotiations are still mired in difficulty and uncertainty.

The latest UN session in Bonn, Germany, left a number of key issues unresolved, including the controversial issue of whether countries should make formal commitments on adaptation and finance—a decision on which the success of Lima will hinge.

Finding the answers

Politicians have honed in on the IPCC science report as the latest reason why countries must not fail when they meet in Paris next year.

A similar meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 ended bitterly when countries failed to come to an agreement, despite years of preparation and the presence of world leaders, including US president Barack Obama.

“The case for action could not be clearer…We have no reason not to act,” said UK climate minister Amber Rudd today at Chatham House.

But while it provides an important political signal to negotiators, the IPCC does not have all the answers, said Chris Field, chair of the group’s report on climate adaptation.

“It’s clearly not a problem that IPCC can tackle on its own. The IPCC provides an important supporting function,” he told RTCC. “What we haven’t seen yet is a level of ambition among the countries that really pushes them sufficiently close together to come up with solutions.”

He added that the single most important message that the IPCC offered to politicians was that early action is cheaper than delay when it comes to climate change.

New York summit

But the IPCC report is just one among many causes for optimism, said Pulgar Vidal.

The New York climate summit, hosted by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon in September, also provided a crucial momentum on the road to Paris, he said. At this landmark gathering, world leaders, businesses and civil society united to demand strong action on climate change.

However, this “good mood” will not automatically be transferring to the negotiations in Lima and Paris without additional effort by negotiators, the Peruvian minister warned.

“We should recognise that the formal process is different to New York,” he said.

In two weeks’ time, politicians will meet again in Berlin, where rich countries are expected to pledge large sums of money to a UN-backed climate bank. The level of generosity displayed at this meeting will also lay the groundwork for a successful Lima conference, he said. The UK has pledged to give a significant donation.

The main measures of this success will be whether countries are able to agree on a draft text for the new UN agreement, he said.

“We have all the pieces but we will need to put it together. That is our challenge. If we’re able to put the pieces together we are going to succeed.”

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