The Lima Accord: A Great Success or More Climate Catastrophe?

December 16, 2014

350.org's Co-founder Jamie Henn says nations are not yet committing enough money to thwart climate change, and that next year's Paris conference will be a referendum on the planet's future

350.org's Co-founder Jamie Henn says nations are not yet committing enough money to thwart climate change, and that next year's Paris conference will be a referendum on the planet's future



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Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

The UN climate talks in Lima, Peru, has produced the Lima Accord. Some are calling it a great success, while critics are saying the document is ineffectual to combat worldwide climate change, which, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is already severe, pervasive, and irreversible, with 2014 on track to be the warmest year on record.

Now joining us from Brooklyn, New York, is Jamie Henn. He is the cofounder and strategy and communications director of 350.org, an international climate change campaign.

Thank you so much for joining us, Jamie.

JAMIE HENN, COFOUNDER, 350.ORG: It’s good to be with you.

PERIES: So, Jamie, after two weeks of COP 20 negotiations, they have produced a four-page document. Tell us what’s in it.

HENN: Well, there’s actually two documents that have really come out of this text, although the one that you mentioned is getting the most attention. The short one, the Lima Accord, is a guideline for the negotiations going forward as we build up towards the next round of big talks in Paris in 2015, when world leaders hope to actually sign a new climate agreement. The second text is called an annex to the main accord, and that’s what actually contains all the different potential targets and mechanisms and processes that the world would be agreeing to if it does go ahead and sign that agreement in Paris.

That second text is actually a bit more interesting than the first, in the sense that it has some new targets on the table, including fully phasing out fossil fuel emissions by 2050. So while the agreement coming out of Lima really helped kind of kick the big problems down the road and didn’t make an immense amount of progress, it is teeing up Paris to be a really interesting meeting and one that could be a referendum on the future of the fossil fuel industry.

PERIES: So, Jamie, tell us what will have to take place between now and Paris in 2015 to make this more tangible.

HENN: Well, I think probably a lot of protest and a lot of people in the streets. I mean, we saw in Lima that negotiators, especially from rich countries, are still treating these negotiations as business as usual, a place to find compromise, a place to put a little bit on the table. But no rich country, including the United States, is going out of its way to really be a leader on climate change and do what science and justice are really demanding be done.

So, over the next year, we have an incredible amount of work to do to build on the momentum that we’ve seen in the streets on climate change around the world over the last year and continue to put the pressure on world leaders so that they see this as a crisis, but also a huge opportunity to make new investments in a clean energy economy, to really show the world that we’re serious about tackling big issues again.

I’ve been amazed to see all the energy from Lima, where we had 20,000 people marching in the streets last Wednesday, to back here in New York, where there were over 400,000 people last September. This movement is finally beginning to grow, and over the next year I think we continue to need to really push our politicians to take bolder action to confront this crisis.

PERIES: Right. So, Jamie, we need this kind of a very effective document. We need mass mobilization. But the economy also has to dramatically change if the specifics of the agreement are to be delivered. So tell us what are some of the specifics and what is going to be the hardest for us to achieve.

HENN: Well, some of the specifics involve cutting emissions dramatically. That’s going to be a challenge, although countries are beginning to put targets on the table. So the U.S. has introduced a target. The Chinese have put forward their own target about increasing the energy efficiency of their economy. None of these targets, frankly, are strong enough, but it’s a good sign that countries are beginning to say, we have a stake in this problem and we need to begin reducing our emissions.

The second piece, and probably the most difficult piece, is finance. As usual, it all comes down to money, and countries aren’t willing yet to commit the sort of financial resources that we need, not only to reduce emissions, but also help poorer countries adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.

The third piece is really a question of what tools can the UN and the countries that are a part of it put forward to help facilitate the type of transition that we need to see? That ranges from everything to how do we better manage our forests and land use to what sort of tools can we set up for more efficient technology transfer between different countries. Those pieces are the architecture of the accord, which has been moving forward over the years. As I was saying earlier, what’s been really lacking is the political will. There’s no shortage of smart policy ideas or smart economists who are ready to get to work on making this transition possible. What we need is smarter and, arguably, braver politicians to really step forward and begin to put those pieces into place.

PERIES: Jamie, let’s continue that more detailed discussion in the analysis required to bring forth a more meaningful agreement at the end of 2015 in our next segment.

HENN: Sure thing.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

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