Fighting for a Happy Ending to Global Climate Talks

Source: M. (Miguel) Arias Cañete i, published on Thursday, December 18 2014.

Fighting for a Happy Ending to Global Climate Talks

If they ever make a movie about the UN climate talks, Lima will be the moment when the audience holds their breath, looks away, then breathes a sigh of relief when it's over. If we want them to be out of their seats and cheering by the end, we all have a lot of work to do before the next round of talks in Paris in December 2015.

In some ways, Lima followed a similar pattern to other climate talks. I would know, I have been to a few. Countries arrived with entrenched positions; tensions and coffee machines heated up as the talks ran over; and right up until the last moment, everyone was worried we could walk away with nothing.

But the 'Lima Call for Climate Action', the document all countries finally approved in the early hours of Sunday morning, made some important advances.

It clarified that all countries will announce their contributions to the global climate deal in the next few months, well in advance of the Paris talks. It also agreed that all countries must describe their proposed targets in a clear, transparent and understandable way. Finally, it gave a mandate to the UN to put together a report once all the contributions are in, to see whether we are on track to keep global warming to below 2oC.

What we agreed in Lima lays the ground for negotiations towards a truly global solution for a global problem, with all the big emitters playing their part in reducing emissions. A global climate agreement fit for the 21st century.

It is no secret that the EU had hoped for a more ambitious outcome. We wanted to make sure countries will be held account for reaching their targets by agreeing a more robust process for evaluating countries' contributions.

What is clear is that there will be an even greater need for the world's citizens to put sustained pressure on their leaders over the next twelve months to get them to face up to their responsibilities.

Public pressure helped push EU leaders to set our own climate targets in October this year. The '2030 Framework', agreed by 28 heads of state at the highest political level, includes a legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. This will form the backbone of our own contribution to global climate deal.

So my priority over the next few months will be making sure that other countries match our level of ambition in their own pledges, and they show how they will actually meet those pledges. Because, to be frank, the world has had enough of empty climate promises.

Ultimately though, peer pressure can only achieve so much. It needs be accompanied by pressure from below. World leaders will only act, be ambitious, and sign a deal if they are held to account by their citizens, not just their fellow leaders.

That is why we must all do what we can to speak out, keep the pressure on all countries to be as ambitious and transparent and possible, and make sure climate change has a top billing for the next year.

If we can do this, when the credits roll, hopefully this story will have a happy ending.