Lima COP Negotiations Recap: Interesting Implications for the CDR Field

The COP 20 meetings in Lima have officially come to a close, and reactions to the outcomes from the negotiations are mixed.

Above: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at Lima COP Negotiations

On the bright side, some commentators are still more optimistic than ever that a meaningful deal will be reached in the next COP negotiations in Paris in 2015. This optimism springs from a proposed plan to have individual nations to develop their own emission-reduction commitments, rather than have negotiators develop a legally binding carbon “budget” (as was attempted in previous COP negotiations). The fact that the US Congress would not need to approve such “bottom up” emission reduction plan gives hope that the US can be part of a comprehensive global treaty next year in Paris.

Todd Stern

Above: Todd Stern speaking at Lima COP 20 negotiations

On the other hand, some commentators are worried that “peer pressure” isn’t going to be enough to get countries to propose meaningful emission reduction targets, and that the Paris negotiations will result in an agreement that won’t actually prevent climate change.

How the continued negotiations play out over the next year will have important implications for the carbon dioxide removal (“CDR”) field. In an encouraging sign, some options in the draft Lima text include language arguing that the world should aim for net zero emissions by 2050 and/or net negative emissions by 2100. This language closely echoes the findings of the latest IPCC report, and implies the need for large-scale CDR by midcentury. For this to actually happen, individual nation’s commitments will need to include proposals for large-scale CDR projects — it will be interesting to see how nations discuss their eventual plans for incorporating negative emissions into their reduction targets.

In addition, it will be interesting to see how CDR is discussed in the event that the proposed emission targets by each nation do not add up to an amount needed to prevent climate change. CDR will only grow in importance as countries delay action on overall GHG emission mitigation, and CDR could potentially gain more exposure if the negotiations in Paris result in outcomes that fail to meet our hopes.

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