LIVE IN LIMA – DAY 1: UN COP20 climate change summit



Latest headlines
COP president warns “window of opportunity” is short
Recent pledges to GCF has built fragile trust, says Nauru
Half of Tuvalu fasts in support of climate action
Yeb Sano absence from talks lamented by civil society
Lack of pre-2020 action “does not build confidence” says Sudan

1544 – I’ve just been to a press conference about the Fast for the Climate movement, which today staged its largest ever fast. It is over a year since the idea of fasting to promote climate action was launched by Filipino negotiator Yeb Sano in Warsaw, following Typhoon Haiyan which ravaged his country.

Sano is not in Warsaw, but he spoke to the gathered via video link, flanked by copies of Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring and a biography of Steve Jobs.

“Fasting nourishes our soul and it takes care of the moral hunger in our hearts,” he said. “We stand today together to confront this climate crisis. We fast for the climate because we care about the future of this world. We fast for the climate because we want to become instruments of positive change in averting the climate crisis.”

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1400 – The morning plenary has wrapped up, to be resumed this afternoon. The session saw Marcin Korolec pass on the presidency to Peruvian environment minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who seems to have settled well into the role already. He’s clearly a stickler for time keeping, and the inclusion of civil society statements at the beginning of the session suggests he’s serious about making this an inclusive COP.

There’s been plenty to digest since the last round of talks: the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework, the US-China pact, almost $10 billion in climate finance contributions, and the IPCC science report. These developments were frequently referenced – but for many countries they did not disguise the fact that the gap between current action and what needs to be done is widening. Only 19 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol amendment, which lays out ambition up to pre-2020, and it’s clear that this could fracture the fragile trust in the talks.

Outside the sweltering room, the main discussion has been around Yeb Sano, the Filipino negotiator and the star of the UN talks. Rumours abound that he’s been taken off the delegation. His absence has not stopped the fast for the climate movement, which he founded making an impact. Today was the largest fast in history, with half the population of Tuvalu participating.

1349 – In the absence of translators, the plenary has been resumed until after lunch. We are yet to hear from Latin American alliances AILAC and ALBA, among others.

Some won’t be having lunch. On the opening day of the UN climate summit in Lima, Peru, the largest climate fast in history takes place – including the Pacific island of Tuvalu – but Filipino Yeb Sano who inspired the movement is not at the crunch talks.

Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Change Adviser, Mohamed Adow, is at the summit in Peru. He said: “It is powerful to see the movement that Yeb sparked catch fire but it’s strange that he is not here to join us in Lima. Yeb’s absence is very curious given the significant leadership role he has played at these talks fighting for the rights of people suffering from climate change.

“People are scratching the heads as to why Yeb is not on the delegation anymore. He is a ray of light in an often dark process and I hope he has not been excluded from the delegation because some people don’t like the important truth he tells.”

1337 – Nepal on behalf of least developed countries. He also calls on countries to speed up the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

1329 – Nicaragua on behalf of the likeminded developing countries. “Even as developing countries are doing more and more to address climate change, even with their own resources, developed countries should…not be backsliding on their commitments,” he says. “We cannot accept replacing business-as-usual with too little too late.”

He also takes a swipe at the informal way in which agreements are sometimes agreed – the notorious huddle, which excludes some of the less politically powerful in the talks: “Under your presidency, we are assured we will not see huddles and agreements negotiated by the few.”

1327 – Megan Darby has been at a briefing held by the Third World Network. Brandon Wu of Action Aid USA warned against letting the US lead negotiations. Despite president Barack Obama’s recent pledge, jointly with China, to limit emissions, the US is still putting the world on track for 3-4C of warming, Wu noted.

“Praising the Obama administration for standing up to the Republicans on climate change is all well and good,” he said. But “the world cannot afford to have its climate ambition limited by what is politically possible in the US. That is a route to a 4C future.” Friends of the Earth’s Asad Rehman was similarly unimpressed by the EU’s climate goals, while Meena Raman of the Third World Network said there needed to be more focus on pre-2020 action.

“Everybody is now postponing the horizon and the goalposts,” said Raman. “This is one of the most worrying aspects.”

1316 – Sudan on behalf of the Africa Group up now adds to the weight of expectation on the high level section on finance, which should help to unlock the $100 billion a year by 2020. On the Kyoto Protocol, he echoes what the majority of other developing countries have said: “it does not build confidence”. To date, only 19 countries have ratified the Doha amendment, which sets out pre-2020 agreement. Countries must go through this process if the Africa Group is to take them seriously on the new agreement, he says.

1310 – The fast for the climate movement, started last year by Filipino negotiator Yeb Sano, is going full steam ahead again this year. There is an action taking place now in the cafeteria.

1302 – Nauru on behalf of small island states. Ambassador Marlene Moses, chair of AOSIS (alliance of small island states) sent this statement out earlier:

“The extreme vulnerability of Small Island States to climate change demands urgent action, and international momentum is finally building to deliver, we call on the world to ensure the opportunity does not slip away.”

Nauru highlights that, for these islands, it is already difficult to implement the convention, and expresses concerns that added requirements will impose another burden. Finance will help with this, and the representative praises the Green Climate Fund contributions made last month: “recent pledges to the GCF have already increased trust”, she says; but this trust is fragile, and won’t last if they’re not delivered.

1256 – Gender and youth representatives are now given a chance to address the plenary. It’s unusual to see civil society representatives given the platform at this stage – normally they are left to address impatient and hungry government delegates right at the end. This could be a positive chance that the Peruvian government intends to make good on its promise to host an inclusive, civil society friendly COP.

1247 – Mexico on behalf of the Environmental Integrity Group. There have been a number of milestones this year, including the New Climate Economy report, which highlights the economic benefits of tackling climate change – former Mexican president Calderon chaired this report. Announcements from the EU, US and China are welcomed. The group is “fully prepared to contribute substantively to new draft agreement to be adopted next year in Paris”. The new agreement should take into account human rights and gender equity.

1244 – The EU is speaking in the plenary. They emphasise how they are on track to exceed their 2020 targets, but also emphasise that a divided Kyoto Protocol approach to the new deal will not succeed in tackling climate change, and that a global approach is required.

1243 – More from Nitin Sethi at the Business Standard newspaper on the “dropping” of Philippines negotiator Yeb Sano by his national delegation. He says that “Another well-known senior negotiator and veteran from Philippines, Berneditas Muller, has not found a permanent place in the country’s delegation as well.” RTCC has contacted Sano for a response – but heard nothing so far. It’s unclear why the paid have been dropped, although as Sethi suggests it may be connected to pressure from the EU and US for the Philippines to take a more progressive role at talks, and distance itself from the Like Minded Developing Group, a fossil-fuel producer dominated alliance.

1234 – Australia, generally recognised as the pariah of climate policy, takes the floor on behalf of the Umbrella Group. The bloc, which also includes Russia, Canada and Norway, is committed to taking “strong and effective climate action”. He has high hopes for the ministerial session on climate finance – he wants this to “highlight that finance is flowing from public and private sources, including the Green Climate Fund”.

The Kyoto Protocol does not have the answers to tackling climate change, he says. The rapid transformation of emerging economies, which has seen booming emissions from countries like China, represents a “renewed climate challenge”. A global agreement is required, he says, which is the aim of the Paris deal next year.

1233 – Ed King has just come back from the opening press conference from the Climate Action Network (CAN), which represents a wide coalition of NGOs including WWF and Greenpeace. Despite walking out of the talks in Warsaw last year, the main message was that civil society is now back and reinvigorated after a year canvassing the views of their members, and organising mass protests, such as the New York climate summit march, which attracted over 300,000 people.

Greenpeace’s head of delegation Martin Kaiser said last year’s Warsaw meeting was a “coal celebration”, made worse by the decision of Japan to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, a move he described as “absurd”. Since then he argued the mood has changed: “With the announcements from the US and China, and also preparatory work in many other countries we see that climate change is not an international diplomatic game, it’s a matter of survival and taking actions regardless of what other countries do”

1215 – Countries are delivering their statements today. First up, we have the G77+China group, represented by Bolivia. Their representative highlights how developed countries have failed to live up to their promises on tackling climate: while he welcomes recent contributions of almost $10 billion to the Green Climate Fund, it is still insufficient compared to the $100 billion promised every year from 2020. Pre-2020 action from developed countries is also criticised. They must raise their level of ambition, he says.

He calls for National Adaptation Plans to be turned into reality. Technology transfer will lay the groundwork for any adaptation and mitigation actions on the part of developing countries, he says. He calls for accelerated actions on the technology mechanism.

He is cynical of how the notion of equity is playing out. An agreement that is bottom up – very much the way things are going at the moment – will lead to developed countries emitting more than they should, he says.

During a call for ratification of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – rich countries’ pre-2020 commitments – Bolivia asks for rich states to up their game. Several countries are in a position to offer greater emission cuts, he says.

1146 – The opening plenary moves onto the less exciting housekeeping work now. The agenda passes without any objections, which means that work can go ahead.

1124 – Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the IPCC (the UN’s science panel) is now on. After the fun of that theatrical show, he promises to bring everyone down “with the reality of science”. The IPCC presented its fifth report on the state of climate change in four instalments over the past year, most recently its synthesis report.

Analysis: Why you should bother to read the IPCC synthesis report

He spells out the influence of human emissions and their unequivocal impact on the planet. Impacts are already underway across all continents, he says, affecting rich and poor alike: it is very likely Arctic sea ice will continue to shrink, sea level will continue to rise, and glacier volume will decrease.

He says he hope this COP will focus on the need to reach a zero emissions world by the end of the century, in order to avoid 2C and limit climate change risks.

1115 – The Peruvian presidency has put on a show, which is explaining climate change through the medium of interpretative dance. Obviously.


1055 – UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres is up. She’s also speaking in Spanish of the need to deliver a draft text, ensure all actors broaden scope of actions, and create political parity of adaptation and mitigation. This COP “must make history” she says, and craft deal that is as “indelible as the Nazca lines”. She’s helpfully illustrating this point with her shirt, which features one of Peru’s most famous cultural sites.

1041 – Here are the results that Pulgar Vidal wants to achieve in the following two weeks:
– Progress on INDCs (that’s “intended nationally determined contributions” – learn the acronym, it’s going to be a big deal)
– Should lead to a framework on structuring and strengthening financial mechanisms. A high level finance ministerial on this should help
– Launch ambitious process to accelerate pre-2020 action
– Adaptation action should “take giant step forward” through National Adaptation Plans
– International review of mitigation action for developed countries
– Launch loss and damage mechanism
– Progress on forests. Important for Peru, much of which is covered by the Amazon rainforest. December 8 will focus on this
– Concrete results on technology transfer and gender
– He also stresses the need for an inclusive, creative and transparent process

1041 – “Welcome to the action,” says Pulgar Vidal. Then he switches to speaking in Spanish. He is using his opening speech to highlight the messages of the recent IPCC report. The report makes it clear that the the window of opportunity to reduce emissions will close soon, he says. It also makes clear the opportunities of addressing climate change.

1036 – “The gavel is yours,” says Korolec. And Peru has the presidency of the COP. Korolec says that if anyone had told him how much would be achieved in Warsaw, he would have taken them for mad. He hails the 2030 framework agreed by the EU, the Green Climate Fund contributions and the US-China deal as some of the major achievements of this year.

1031 – You can watch the live stream of the opening plenary here.

1027 – Marcin Korolec, Polish president of COP19, is opening COP20. This is where he hands over a job of “stress, long haul flights, sleepless night and almost insolvable problems” (as he describes it) to Manuel Pulgar Vidal, environment minister of Peru.

1019 – Welcome to RTCC’s Lima live blog. The UN’s 20th conference of parties (COP20) starts today in Peru’s capital city. Over the next two weeks, countries will discuss, debate and maybe even agree on many of the key elements of the historic climate change deal that will be signed next year in Paris.

I’m Sophie Yeo, and I’ll be on the ground in Lima to keep you informed on the talks in real time. In this live blog, you’ll find the latest news and information from the negotiations, as well as interviews with key players from government and civil society.

If you have any insights or suggestions, please get in touch at [email protected], or on Twitter at @rtcc_sophie. Or, if you’re in Lima yourself, come find me in person and tell me what you’re up to.

We’re kicking off this morning with the opening plenary, where officials from all the negotiating blocs make their opening statements. It’s common for delegates to take a hard line here. But given the recent advances in the US-China relationship and new climate finance announcements of almost $10 billion, we’ll be watching to see if countries are ready to relax into negotiating mode.

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