Lima: no LAAMA, no GAMA as INDCs replace NAMA
New acronyms but little new progress on action to mitigate climate change at the big event in Lima in December 2014
There is little confusion about what would be globally appropriate mitigation actions (GAMA) to keep the warming of our planet in the range of 2 degrees Celsius. Beyond that level of warming, planetary feedbacks may kick in, such as changes in oceanic circulation, which are hard to control. There is also little uncertainty in most places, what locally appropriate adaptation and mitigation actions (LAAMA) could look like, to ensure that sustainable development progresses and/or remains in reach. Often such options will include forests, trees and agroforestry. The specifics will be highly dependent on context, with external financial co-investment crucial in the poorest (least-developed) countries. But, between this GAMA and the many LAAMAs there’s a gaping hole.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was created in Rio in 1992 at a time when the world seemed to be divided into two parts: 1) rich (developed) countries that had not only caused most historical emissions that brought about climate change but were also emitting the most at the time; and 2) poor, developing countries that were to suffer most from climate change but had little role in either historical or current emissions.
The code sentence became ‘common but differentiated responsibility’. Trenches were dug and at all subsequent events the developing countries asked for stringent emission reductions by developed countries, a free hand to emit as much as they wanted themselves, and finances to pay for the damage done by climate change. The developed countries agreed initially and the Kyoto Protocol reflected a first step towards correcting historical inequities. However, early signs of a rapid rise in emissions from China, emerging from ‘poor’ to ‘middle income’, challenged the discourse of ‘rich versus poor’. Later on, emissions in India started to increase as well while the emissions from deforestation and tropical peatlands added further complexity. The emissions embodied in trade grew faster than other categories and the emission reductions of Kyoto Protocol countries did not contribute much to GAMA.
Last year’s UNFCCC event (‘Conference of Parties’ or COP) was held in Lima. Did Peru and its llama’s inspire a breakthrough towards locally appropriate adaptation and mitigation actions? Unfortunately not. Did it bring GAMA any closer? When far enough in the future, way beyond their expected tenure, politicians are willing to make ‘commitments’ but not for measures that they’ll have to sell to current electorates.
There had been one bright spot in the polarized ‘rich versus poor’ discourse: the concept of nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMA), framed voluntarily by developing countries to show that they wanted to be part of the solution. This concept was introduced at the COP in 2007 in Bali, Indonesia, but had a rather checkered history until all other negotiated options failed and it became at least some basis for action. If actually bridging LAAMAs to GAMA, the NAMA framework can embody ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ for developing countries but it needs firm commitments from the high-emission countries (regardless of whether they formerly were classified as rich or poor).
The main outcome of the Lima COP was that indicative national determined commitments (INDC. Yes, it suggests that the key is ‘in DC’; and that INDCs may be ‘indecisive’) is now the acronym of this year, replacing NAMA, or rather, making the uncommitted dimension of NAMA apply to all countries. Will this get us out of the 1992 trenches? Comments made at the final plenary of the COP suggest it won’t.
It probably means that the LAAMAs have to be prepared for even more adaptation to a globally changing climate that is not brought under control. The more uncertain conditions of a world with more than 2 degrees warming are coming rapidly; and two degrees local cooling is about what we can expect from trees in our agricultural landscapes. So, the agroforestry option is only a step in the right direction.
This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry