The Real Lima Deal

LIMA – It was the agreement that everyone wanted, yet that no one much likes. This year’s annual United Nations climate-change conference in Lima, Peru, finally concluded in the early hours of Sunday morning, more than 24 hours after the scheduled close, after fierce argument in the final days. Negotiators from 196 countries patched together a compromise that keeps the world on course to a new global climate agreement in Paris next year; but almost everyone was left unhappy with some provision or another.

Many critics of the deal, however, have missed the point. The Lima deal is weak in many respects. But it also represents a fundamental breakthrough for shaping a comprehensive global climate regime.

The Lima conference had two goals. The first was to adopt an outline of the text of the 2015 Paris agreement. This goal was achieved – but only by creating a huge 37-page document containing every possible option that countries may want to see in next year’s deal. Delegates did not attempt to negotiate between the various options, taking to heart the old maxim “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”

That negotiation has been left to the five sessions of talks scheduled for 2015, starting in February. Given the divergence among the positions included in the Lima text, arriving at a draft fit for signing in Paris next December will be a huge task.