Despite the number of key world leaders expected to be absent from the U.N. secretary-general's world leaders' summit on climate change this month, the incoming president of the next round of global warming negotiations predicts success.
Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal told ClimateWire that he is not overly concerned by reports that the leaders of India, China, Australia and Germany are reportedly sending ministers to the Sept. 23 summit in New York. He argued that those countries are nevertheless engaged in the climate talks and said he expects the leaders who do attend to help propel the debate around a new global agreement to be signed in 2015.
"We should recognize that the summit is a nonformal room to bring political will to the climate debate, so we should take that as an opportunity to hear the decisionmakers, to hear how much they are going to do," he said. Pulgar-Vidal will serve as president of the 20th U.N. Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Lima in December.
"We are thinking that the summit could bring us as host of the next COP 20 some good messages to move this debate forward," he said. "We look at this summit with optimism."
The summit suffered a blow last week when reports surfaced that Chinese President Xi Jinping would not attend the summit—just weeks after U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres had announced, to much fanfare, that both Xinping and President Obama would "definitely" be there. A spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general said the office cannot confirm the attendance of any specific head of state but said there will be more than 100 world leaders in all.
And while officials have taken pains to point out that the event is not where the details of a new global climate agreement will be hashed out, the summit will bring unprecedented attention to the U.N. process. The agreement is expected to for the first time enforce greenhouse gas emissions cuts from all major climate polluters. Nations have agreed to come forward early next year with "nationally determined contributions"—that is, emissions pledges for the years after 2020—which will ultimately be wrapped up into a global deal to be signed in Paris in December 2015.
After the summit, the next stop on the official road to Paris will be Lima, where a formal negotiating session will see diplomats trying to remove some of the key roadblocks to a deal.
4 key ingredients
Pulgar-Vidal said he expects to see countries deliver a draft of the Paris agreement by the time they leave his country. But before that can happen, he said, four main issues must be addressed: how rich and poor countries plan to divide responsibility for cutting emissions; how countries will prove they are making the carbon cuts they have promised to make; whether the final agreement should be internationally legally binding; and how to ensure that poor countries get the money they need to adapt to climate change and develop low-carbon energy systems.
"We know that probably the New York summit is not going to be the place or the room where we are going to deeply discuss these things, but we hope we can hear the heads of governments saying that they will have this discussion from here to December, and after December to Paris," he said.
Pulgar-Vidal insisted on staying neutral on some key issues, like whether the agreement should be a full-on treaty or something more voluntary. The United States is pushing for an agreement that will not require Senate ratification, while the European Union is expected to demand a traditional legally binding protocol.
"It depends on what we are going to have by the end of December. Remember that this is a bottom-up process," Pulgar-Vidal said. "I think it is too early to say exactly how much and what exactly 'legally binding' means if we don't know exactly how it's going to be structured," he said.
He described himself as a "complete optimist" about the U.N. process and said he still believes countries will be able to deliver a strong draft text in Lima and an ambitious climate deal in Paris.
"I think the world knows that nobody is going to accept to fail as [the U.N. negotiations in] Copenhagen failed some years ago. We know based on what climate change is facing to us and what the science is saying to us that we are going to find a way to deal with the challenge, to have an agreement by the end of next year," he said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500