15 Dec 2014

Groser defends UN climate deal

11:53 am on 15 December 2014

Environmental groups have criticised the climate deal reached at a marathon conference in Peru as an ineffectual compromise, but New Zealand Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said there had been positive developments.

An electricity generating station in Sun Valley, California.

An electricity generating station in Sun Valley, California. Photo: AFP

About 190 nations agreed the building blocks of a new-style global deal to combat climate change, due to be sealed in Paris in December 2015.

Tim Groser

Tim Groser Photo: REUTERS

The draft text promises poorer countries more funds to tackle the effects of rising temperatures, while richer countries are assured a new framework to monitor all pledges to cut emissions.

Some environmental groups said the agreement, reached as the conference ran two days late after a fortnight of talks came close to collapsing, was far too weak.

The compromise deal defers many critical decisions until talks next year in Paris.

But Mr Groser told Morning Report there was at least an agreement to take the Paris talks, and there had been movement by China which accepted it should work to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Asad Rehman said it was unacceptable that many criticial decisions were put off until next year.

"What we saw was rich industrialised countries pretty much bullying poorer countries into accepting an outcome which will be quite catastrophic for many of their citizens.

"Whilst there is a political agreement, the planet and the people don't really care about a statement in itself - what's really needed is concrete actions."

Samantha Smith of the WWF conservation group said the successive drafts at the Lima talks "went from weak to weaker to weakest."

The draft agreement appeased emerging economies, led by China and India, concerned that previous drafts imposed too heavy a burden on emerging economies compared to the rich.

"We've got what we wanted," said Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javedekar, who said the text preserved a notion enshrined in a 1992 climate convention that the rich have to lead the way in making cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

It also satisfied rich nations led by the United States who say it is time for fast-growing emerging economies to rein in fast-rising emissions. China is now the biggest greenhouse gas emitter ahead of the United States, the EU and India.

Activists demonstrate on the sidelines of the UN climate change conferences in Lima

Activists demonstrate on the sidelines of the UN climate change conferences in Lima Photo: AFP

New Zealand proposal

Under the deal, each nation will submit national plans for reining in greenhouse gas emissions by an informal deadline of 31 March 2015 to form the basis of a global agreement due at next year's summit in France.

Mr Groser said New Zealand's proposal would soon be put together and he was confident the country could reach its emission targets.

"We're putting that together over the next few months. It is not going to be straightforward, but New Zealand is in a difficult position, there is very litte low-hanging fruit here.

"But we will meet our target for 2008, 2012 no problem, we will absolutely meet our target through (to) 2020."

Key points in the climate change agreement

The pledges:

  • Should be submitted by the first quarter of 2015 by those parties ready to do so and as soon as possible thereafter by the rest.
  • Will be self-determined.
  • Must improve on a nation's current carbon-cutting undertakings.
  • May include information on the base year used as a reference for emissions cuts, time frame for implementation, and the methodology for calculating the numbers.
  • Will be published on the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Will be assessed by the UNFCCC secretariat, which will prepare a report by November 1, 2015, on their aggregate effect on the UN goal to curb global warming to 2°C over pre-industrial levels.

They need not:

  • - Include information on rich countries' planned financial assistance for developing nations, as requested by many, though the text "urges" such support.
  • Detail assistance for developing nations' climate adaptation plans. Parties are merely invited to "consider including an adaptation component".

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