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Greetings from COP20 in Lima

This July, I learned that I would have the honour of representing youth from Canada at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima, Peru.   Alongside six incredibly talented and well-versed organizers from across the country, I arrived to Peru two days ago in the wee hours of the morning to begin the journey of holding this Canadian government to account for their blatant inaction on the climate.

This year’s Conference of Parties (COP) marks the twentieth of its kind which is in some ways inspiring in that world leaders have been meeting around the climate for this long but also disheartening in that we have seen extremely limited progress in halting and reversing climate change in the past twenty years.

To give some context for this year’s conference, some 11,000 world leaders, civil society organizations, ENGOs, NGOs, and industry representatives from around the globe will arrive in Peru’s capital in the next few days.   Ideally, what will come out of Lima is that the groundwork will be laid for nations to sign on to a just, ambitious, and legally binding treaty at COP 21 in Paris next year.  In reality, we expect countries like Canada and Australia to continue to stall negotiations and block meaningful action on the climate. Additionally, Canada and Australia have reportedly been attempting to recruit the UK and India to fight international climate policy with them, largely in order to shut down the potential for carbon pricing policy.  Lima will be a litmus test for Paris and we have yet to see any clear indication as to whether the UK or India will join what has been dubbed by some as the “axis of carbon”.

Some countries, however, have been moving forward in the right direction.  Just weeks before this year’s conference in Lima, an unexpected climate deal between the US and China sparked speculation around the globe as to what this would mean for this year’s climate talks. While an agreement between the highest and second highest carbon-emitting countries in the world provides a glimmer of hope, it should also be noted that their commitments are not enough to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

In the lead-up to Lima, Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) has put together an interactive map where you can see which countries have pledged what in terms of emissions targets.  Spoiler Alert:  nearly every country’s targets are well below what they should be to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius and it should be noted that a change in 2 degrees Celsius will have detrimental effects on the earth.  Some countries such as Canada, who withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011, currently have no legally binding treaty in place; this allows them to tout the undeniably low target of reducing emissions by 17% from 2005 levels as some sort of success.   In reality, it earned them the Fossil of the Year award at the climate talks for five years in a row.

There does seem to be one common thread in the reports and research in the lead up to this year’s conference in Lima and that is that global cooperation is imperative for mitigation and adaptation efforts to be effective.  Perhaps most notable in this line of thought is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s fifth Assessment Report  (AR5) released earlier this year which is expected to pave the way for the a treaty in Paris.  On the ground, we expect to hear the words “adaptation” and “mitigation” a lot this year alongside NAMAs (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions) and NAPAs (National Adaptation Programmes of Actions).  All this to say, we are expecting Lima to follow the path that past COPs have laid in the discussions around Annex 1 countries (some of the wealthiest economies in the world) funding less wealthy countries’ adaptation efforts through the Green Climate Fund.

Much speculation can and has been done in the lead-up to Lima and it is certainly easy to get lost in the weeds of acronyms and jargon, but one thing is sure, the Canadian Youth Delegation is here to hold this government to account, and nothing will get in our way.

The Canadian Youth Delegation will be blogging daily from Lima, you can sign up for updates here.