Climate talks in Lima: What did the global community actually agree on?

For the first time in history, climate change negotiators have come up with a plant to limit greenhouse gas emissions in every single nation. The agreement requires all 196 countries to create a detailed plan within the next six months to limit emissions from burning coal, gas and oil. William Mauldin of the Wall Street Journal joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Cuzco, Peru to discuss the agreement.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Joining us now from Cusco, Peru, is William Mauldin. He has been covering the climate talks in Lima for The Wall Street Journal.

    So, what did they actually agree on?

  • WILLIAM MAULDIN:

    Well, they agreed on a mechanism that will allow them to put forth their climate plans next year, their plans to cut greenhouse emissions well in the future, after 2020.

    For some of them, it might be 2030 or later. They agreed on this mechanism for the first time. And this has got all the developing countries really, really happy.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK. So, what are the developing countries going to do and how do we verify that?

  • WILLIAM MAULDIN:

    The developing countries are going to participate in making cuts someday.

    And the verification, that's a matter of contention. That will be debated until the final text is worked out.

    But it looks like there will be some program where the countries put forth international targets and plans.

    And those will be reviewed by some international body, if not the United Nations, then perhaps nongovernmental organizations or climate groups or think tanks or something else, that will give us a baseline, comparing the cuts that one country are making to those of another country, perhaps a developed or a richer country.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    At the end of these talks, we saw this tension, this familiar tension reemerge between rich and poor countries.

    What was the argument — argument about?

  • WILLIAM MAULDIN:

    Yes, it exploded in the early hours of Saturday, after they were already supposed to have finished.

    And that is just about, who is responsible for doing the — for doing the heavy lifting for climate change?

    Who has to make the painful emissions cuts?

    And, historically, in the Kyoto Protocol, it's been the developed countries, like the U.S. — well, the U.S. intended to under the Kyoto Protocol, but it never ratified it — the European Union or other developed countries.

    Also, the question is, who is to finance all these changes and who is to pay for poorer countries to get ready for climate events in the future?

    So, that exploded out into the open. We had Venezuela and China opposing the text that was out there.

    It took some last-minute edits from the U.S., the European Union and the developed countries' side to get to a point where they were — they were ready to let this go forward to negotiations next year that are supposed to finish up in Paris.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, what happens in Paris now? It seems like, if you kick the can down the road, at some point, you're going to have to do more hard work in Paris.

  • WILLIAM MAULDIN:

    That's right.

    Well, they will have some meetings before Paris.

    That is just a final summit where they hope to hammer out a deal that will cut emissions after 2020 and beyond.

    But, before that, there is a lot of work to be done figuring out exactly how it's going to work, who is going to pay for it, where the money is going to come from, how much countries are going to cut.

    They have to voluntarily say how much carbon dioxide they want to cut well in the future.

    The rest of the world has to look at that and say, hey, that makes sense or, hey, you need to come back to the table.

    It's a sort of a name and shame, though the people in the talks don't like to call it that.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Now, is there agreement on what that level should be, on whether trying to prevent the Earth from warming past a certain temperature is an agreed-upon goal?

  • WILLIAM MAULDIN:

    Well, the idea is that all of the carbon dioxide cuts should add up to a level where we will be on track to keep the world from warming two degrees Celsius under the main scientific models out there.

    We're probably not going to hit that, judging by what the European Union, United States and China have committed so far.

    Unless all the other countries really go overboard, we're probably not going to be on that two degree goal.

    Environmentalists are very upset. Some in the U.S. aren't quite as upset, perhaps in the energy industry or in the Republican Party, which has opposed some of President Obama's cuts.

    But that is the goal. We won't reach it this time, but every five years or so, they're going to have a plan where they let countries raise their commitments to a higher level, so that they can eventually reach that goal.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right.

    William Mauldin of The Wall Street Journal joining us via Skype from Cusco, Peru, thanks so much.

  • WILLIAM MAULDIN:

    Thank you.

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