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Climate Change

UN Climate Meeting (COP20) To End Today, Probably

It’s 6 am in Lima. Dawn has broken, songbirds are waking, the West Peruvian doves have resumed their eerie low fluting. A car or two whishes by on a nearby avenue in the business section of San Isidro, and one plane is heading out from the airport in a leisurely way. It’s the last day of the UN climate summit, COP20, of 2014.

The US envoy introduces Secretary of State John Kerry (photo: Sandy Dechert).

The US envoy introduces Secretary of State John Kerry (Photo Credit: Sandy Dechert).

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (photo: Sandy Dechert).

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (Photo Credit: Sandy Dechert).

What has occurred in the past 24 hours? Some success—a more positive alliance, on the whole—and once again the miring of the international conference in the pettiness of details. All unresolved issues were considered “options” in Thursday’s COP20 draft, and the report had ballooned to around 60 pages.

A new draft was released at 10:30 pm last night, in accordance with Mr. Pulgar-Vidal’s importunate instructions at his 6 pm informal press conference. It is 7 pages long and written with strong references to the agenda items, making it difficult for anyone to read who is not intimate with previous drafts. Shorter is better in this case because it’s easier to discuss the next time.

Al Gore had a few words to say at a 90-minute information session before the official COP20 plenary reconvened yesterday afternoon. Kerry, remarkably eloquent, had some very pointed observations at his speech to the press. He described inaction as a “massive moral failure of historic consequence.” Read the whole speech here.

Before and after Kerry spoke, military jets flew overhead, sometimes in tight and showy formations. A black CIA helicopter stood waiting, doors open, between the conference exit and the dozens of buses a quarter mile away for delegates, observers, and the press. Did we feel safe, protected by this presence? Nothing is going to make climate change go away. And as Kerry pointed out, partial responses, even by the largest emitters, will be useless.

Here is last night’s short final draft of the critical UN COP20 statement, for your information.

10:10 a.m. The last meeting was to have started at 10. On the webcast, the plenary room is practically deserted. No, in comes UNFCCC head Christiana Figueres. Someone will be speaking soon, if only to enshrine another partial victory by accepting the brief report released last night.

The conference may be extended until later today or tomorrow in hopes of something stronger, or the leaders may decide to close it out this afternoon as scheduled. There has been some progress, especially in terms of trust and goodwill. We can only hope that delegates can retain this spirit when they return to the divisiveness of politics at home and fierce voices of denial.

New decision dates will be in March 2015, June 2015, and the Paris resumption of these talks in December 2015. The last session is being broadcast live here now and will be available in the UN’s online record. I will write again when it is over.


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Written By

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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