Nations Agree To Deal To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Dec 15, 2014
Originally published on December 15, 2014 7:16 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Most of the world's governments at a meeting in Lima, Peru, managed to agree yesterday on a new document aimed at curbing climate change. Hundreds of the negotiators who wrote it say the document, which goes to Paris a year from now for final approval, has serious shortcomings. But U.N. climate executive Christiana Figueres says it's the thought that counts.

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: We know increasingly that we can address climate change, and moving on to Paris, we cement the fact that we will address climate change.

MONTAGNE: As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, the outcome in Lima was modest, but it did establish some important principles.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: What this draft treaty does is put into writing something that's been implicit for years now - to slow climate change, every country has to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. The former treaty on climate, signed in Kyoto in 1997, required developed countries to reduce their emissions, but not developing countries. Those developing countries have always argued that they can't afford to slow their economic growth. They say warming has mostly been caused by rich countries getting richer, but then last September the U.S. and Chinese governments set ambitious goals to cut their own emissions. That created a lot of buzz.

At Lima, the early talk was if these two countries, long seen as obstacles to a world climate treaty, were promising cuts, others would follow. But over the two-week marathon in Lima, that optimism evaporated. Developing countries balked at the first drafts of the new treaty. Late last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in Lima to press the case for universal responsibility.

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U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: The fact is we simply don't have time to sit around going back and forth about whose responsibility it is to act. Pretty simple folks - it's everyone's responsibility because it's the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country's share.

JOYCE: Blocks of developing countries said OK, but demanded that richer governments offer more money with fewer strings attached to help others pay for the damage caused by climate change. Here's the delegate from Malaysia, Gurdial Singh Nijar, during the negotiations.

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GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR: How more compromising can you get? What else do you want us to do, go and bend at knees?

JOYCE: In the end, the basic principle survived. Everyone participates, but developed countries must shoulder most of the burden. There will be more money for developing countries. Details of how this all will work - and there were many pages of them - remained unresolved. But negotiators have a year to wrestle them into submission before the deadline in Paris. Christopher Joyce, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.