After Lima: Ten Climate Questions for the New Year

Will we see a legally binding treaty?

One of the many issues Lima put off until next year is whether or not the national climate pledges will be legally binding. Because a legally binding treaty is very unlikely to pass Congress, giving the climate treaty the “legal teeth” many feel it needs could make it weirdly toothless. It’s even been suggested the Australians are pushing for a legally binding treaty because they think it’ll help make the Paris talks collapse.

Will Keystone be approved?

John Kerry, in a flying visit to the Lima talks, addressed delegates with the stirring line: ”Coal and oil may be cheap ways to power an economy today… but I urge nations around the world: Look further down the road.” His road was metaphorical, but down the actual road were a set of activists protesting against Keystone. Meanwhile, back in DC, Fusion reports that approving Keystone is “the most commonly mentioned item” on the Republicans’ 2015 to-do list.  The topic will be on many environmental campaigners to do lists too though.

Oil price or carbon price?

There are plenty of theories as to why the oil price has dramatically dropped, and how it’ll affect action on climate change. We don’t know how this will play out in 2015, but it’s likely to be a topic of debate. We can also expect groups like the World Bank to continue to try to get us to talk more about carbon pricing.

Is Australia the new Canada?

Australia won “fossil of the year” at Lima, following growing international criticism of Tony Abbott’s climate policy, including a dramatic protest in October as protesters from 12 Pacific nations blockaded the coal port in Newcastle. Writing during the Lima talks, Bill McKibben draws comparisons between Keystone and Australia’s Galilee basin, adding few people have heard of it, but that’s about to change. A potential key battleground for climate action in 2015.

Can Greenpeace’s image recover?

2014 hasn’t been easy for Greenpeace. In June, there was controversy over financial problems and embarrassment when it was revealed that a senior member of staff commuted by plane. They’ve also received criticism (perhaps unfairly) after the EU scrapped the role of chief scientific advisor. This month, there was international outrage at the news that a stunt had damaged the Nazca Lines heritage site, a story which will undoubtedly haunt the NGO for years to come.

Can we phase out fossil fuels by 2050?

The idea of zero net emissions by 2050 isn’t just a green campaigners dream any more. After serious backing from the New Climate Economy report and the World Bank, it finally made its way into the Lima agreement even if details are still very sketchy.

Can we have a debate on loss and damage?

The idea of “loss and damage” has always been controversial, arguably because rich countries are worried about being made liable for the impacts of climate change. Saleemul Huq argues the topic became “un-tabooed” last year at the Warsaw talks but the debate has largely been put off till 2016. There were rumours that countries wanting to block action on climate change would push loss and damage early, at Lima, in the hope of provoking the talks to collapse. In the end, the resulting Lima text includes a reference to loss and damage, but avoids giving detail.

Where will Shell sit in the climate debate?

Before the New York UN climate summit in September, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told the Washington Post that he felt “there’s a responsibility for us to reengage” with the climate debate as it had “gone into la-la land a little.”  When Shell spoke at the Lima talks, it was clear their vision of the future wasn’t to everyone’s liking.

Are climate finance funds big enough?

The pot of money in the Green Climate Fund — a way of channeling money to help developing countries act on climate change — finishes the year just above their $10 billion goal. But few people think it’s enough, and serious questions to answer over how it can be used.

What’s the weather looking like?

The political side to weather is as uncertain as the physical phenomena, but it could well have impact. More floods in the UK, for example, could affect their tight general election this summer.

Written by . Published on December 15, 2014. Last edited on March 4, 2015.

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