Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

16 Dec 2014

Some good news from Lima

Posted by Michael Keating

It’s time for some good news. On Sunday, more than two weeks of negotiations by 194 countries in Lima, Peru ended with the elements of a climate change agreement scheduled to be completed in Paris in December 2015. By next spring, nations are to produce national plans for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Last month, China and the United States, the world’s largest and second-largest carbon polluters, reached a historic accord. The United States promised to emit 26-28 per cent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. China pledged to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner. This helped set a more positive tone for Lima.

The Lima agreement was the latest in a series of global meetings, starting with the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto in 1988, and including the 1987 Kyoto Protocol, with its promise by a number of developed nations to cut emissions. The Lima meeting is important because it kept the onus for emission cuts on richer nations, but also called for contributions in the fight against climate change from developing countries whose emissions are growing.

While many critics say the world has yet to commit to reduce emissions enough to prevent serious global warming, these are major steps. The world is still seriously tied to fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — which provide more than 80 per cent of commercial energy.

The challenge is to move to renewable energy before greenhouse gas emissions make the world a lot less habitable for humans and other species. There are fears of reaching a tipping point in the climate that will bring severe weather shifts, rising sea levels, and severe effects on human health and the economy.

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