Lima climate talks: One in three countries not sending ministers

Political interest declines in UN climate talks, as fewer ministers attend Lima than Warsaw negotiations

Marcin Korolec hands the COP gavel to Manuel Pulgar Vidal (Pic: IISD/ENB)

Marcin Korolec hands the COP gavel to Manuel Pulgar Vidal (Pic: IISD/ENB)

By Sophie Yeo in Lima

Political interest in the UN’s climate talks has shrunk this year, in spite of increasingly urgent scientific warnings and a tight deadline for signing a new climate deal.

Although 190 countries are represented at the talks, only 119 will send a minister. This is less than two in three, and fifteen less than last year’s UN climate talks in Warsaw.

The ranking of the delegates sent by a country to the UN negotiations can be seen as a barometer of how seriously the country regards the threat of climate change.

In some cases, it can also indicate a lack of capacity to spare key figures for the talks. But Burundi, Malawi and Eritrea are making the effort, despite being among the poorest countries in the world.

From the EU, countries sending ministers include the UK, Germany and France.

Countries who will not be represented by ministers include Russia, Venezuela, Greece, Iceland and Indonesia.

The UN’s science report warned earlier this year that the world needed to cut its emissions rapidly if the world is to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, and that any delay would increase the economic cost of the transition to a low carbon world.

The talks taking place in Lima this week are the UN’s penultimate major meeting ahead of their commitment to sign a binding emissions deal in Paris next year.

UK climate change secretary Ed Davey warned last week that there was one year left to solve climate change.

“These are the last major annual talks before we hit our deadline in Paris next year,” he said. “We need a deal in Paris – there is no alternative that will protect our national security, our economy and the way of life we take for granted.”

World leaders

While ministerial representation is lower than last year, several heads of state have signed up.

From Latin America, Bolivian president Evo Morales and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet are both set to attend. Argentina and Cuba will send their vice presidents.

Nauru and Tuvalu, two small island nations which are extremely vulnerable to climate change, will also be represented by their heads of state.

Sierra Leone is sending four ministers, despite being in the midst of an Ebola epidemic. Tanzania is sending its vice president.

Among European countries, Sweden is sending the highest level delegate: Åsa Romson acts as both environment minister and vice prime minister in what was earlier this year branded the world’s greenest country.

Australia, which last year invited criticism for its refusal to send a minister, is this year sending two: foreign minister Julie Bishop and minister for trade and investment Andrew Robb.

Many more world leaders are expected to attend the UN’s historic conference in Paris next year.

In September, 100 heads of state and government attended a UN climate summit hosted by secretary general Ban Ki-moon in New York.

In total, 12,531 people are registered to attend the current conference in Lima: 6,098 from official government delegations, 4654 observers and 1060 journalists.

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