This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

Marathon international climate talks in Peru have produced a roughly drawn road map for reaching a global pact in Paris late 2015 that commits all nations—not just the developed world—to slowing or cutting carbon emissions.

In devising a road map, however, negotiators sidelined key questions, leaving doubts as to how strong the Paris deal will ultimately be and signaling challenges ahead.

Here are five takeaways from the Lima Call for Climate Action that negotiators adopted in the early hours of Sunday morning.

A Fragile Ship Is Still Afloat 

At Lima, diplomats agreed that every nation will outline a pledge to curb carbon emissions by March 2015. Advocates and negotiators arrived at Lima riding a wave of optimism, especially after the landmark U.S.-China agreement announced last month signaled the possibility of developed and emerging nations coming together after years of discord over how to divide responsibility for curbing heat-trapping emissions.

But the difficult talks in Lima blew 30 hours past their deadline and appeared close to collapse at times, a reminder that getting nations on the same page is difficult. In the end, negotiators declared victory, saying that talks will keep the process moving forward. Top U.S. climate diplomat Todd Stern called it a "good outcome and one that will get us started on the way to Paris," according to ClimateWire.

Few were overjoyed, however. The Union of Concerned Scientists said the talks ended with "decisions that represent the bare minimum needed to move the process to Paris," and several advocates expressed dismay that the text grew weaker during the final stages of the talks.

Still, the outcome advances plans for a global climate pact that will, unlike the 1997 Kyoto protocol, ensure at least some level of action on emissions by the big developing countries where pollution is rising.

Robert Stavins, a Harvard University expert on global climate policy, said in a blog post Sunday that negotiators are now on track for a final pact that brings every nation into the fold. "A new way forward has been established in which all countries participate and which therefore holds promise of meaningful global action to address the threat of climate change," writes Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

It (Probably) Won't Be Enough 

Despite cheers from negotiators leaving Lima, the deal falls short of ensuring the steep worldwide pollution cuts that scientists warn are needed to prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change.

The target of the United Nations-hosted climate process is to limit the rise in global temperatures to under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the architecture of the emerging plan rests on a series of nationally decided commitments that are unlikely to ensure the steep emissions cuts that experts say are needed to meet that target. Environmental watchdogs said the Lima deal would not achieve the stated aim. "The outcome here does little to break the world from a path to 3 degrees warming or higher," Oxfam said in a statement.

The IPCC has warned that global emissions must peak in the next few years before falling to zero by the end of the century for the world to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But global emissions, driven in part by the increased use of fossil fuels by nations such as India and China, are currently on the rise. 

Rich-Poor Divide Remains Stark

Rich and poor nations have long bickered over responsibility for rising emissions. That rift was on full display during the talks.

Negotiations ran into overtime due to wrangling over how the deal should address the rich-poor divide. The agreement does not absolve developing nations of responsibility. But it was designed to alleviate some of that burden for poor nations. The deal upholds the principle of "common but differentiated" responsibility, a term signaling that developed nations such as the U.S. still bear greater responsibility than developing countries to shoulder the costs of climate action.

Developing nations such as China and India also resisted calls from the European Union and the United States to publish statistics that would track compliance with the pledges, insisting that their countries' record-keeping infrastructure would not be up to the task.

At the close of the talks, experts noted that even with concessions made at Lima, the divide between rich and poor nations is likely to prove a sticking point at future talks. "Striking a new balance between developed and developing nations will clearly be one of the toughest pieces next year in Paris," Elliot Diringer, the executive vice President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said.

Key Questions Remain 

Lima leaves a number of major questions unresolved, a feature of the talks that advocates say creates additional hurdles to be overcome for the Paris deal.

One point of contention was whether pledges should be subject to an independent audit as a test of their strength. The E.U. pushed for a stringent external review of commitments ahead of Paris, but developing nations like China and India balked. As a compromise, the final draft will require a review of the pledges a month before Paris, but the deal does not suggest that nations will be pushed to increase commitments contingent upon the results of the review.

Delegates also sidelined questions about the legal status of an eventual deal. The E.U. has called for legally binding emissions targets, while the U.S. has pushed back because of the political infeasibility of winning the Senate's stamp of approval for any legal agreement. The most likely outcome of the Paris talks, one kept on track in Lima, is a hybrid system in which nations' pledges to curb emissions would not be legally binding—but other aspects of the deal would be.

It is unclear how stringent the pledges will shape up to be. In one case, a section of the deal that originally said nations "shall include" various kinds of detailed information in the emissions pledges they will make was watered down to say "may include."

Finally, the Lima deal failed to fully address how developed nations plan to ensure that developing nations have access to a steady stream of capital as they work to meet their commitments.

Domestic Politics Matter

Meaningful action by the U.S., the world's second-largest greenhouse-gas polluter behind China, is seen as key to securing emissions curbs by other big emitters. The Obama administration is imposing first-time binding carbon emissions limits on power plants, the largest single source of unchecked emissions, and more broadly has agreed to cut the nation's pollution by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

But ascendant Capitol Hill Republicans have vowed a frontal assault on the White House's climate agenda. Obama and his climate advisers have pledged to block Republican-led efforts to undo regulations to curb emissions, as well as any attempts to kneecap assistance to developing nations to aid in the achievement of climate commitments, but it remains to be seen how the fight will play out when Republicans take the reins in Congress next year.

For the administration, holding the line against the GOP efforts will be crucial to ensuring the U.S. standing in global talks isn't undercut.

A Fragile Ship Is Still Afloat 

At Lima, diplomats agreed that every nation will outline a pledge to curb carbon emissions by March 2015. Advocates and negotiators arrived at Lima riding a wave of optimism, especially after the landmark U.S.-China agreement announced last month signaled the possibility of developed and emerging nations coming together after years of discord over how to divide responsibility for curbing heat-trapping emissions.

But the difficult talks in Lima blew 30 hours past their deadline and appeared close to collapse at times, a reminder that getting nations on the same page is difficult. In the end, negotiators declared victory, saying that talks will keep the process moving forward. Top U.S. climate diplomat Todd Stern called it a "good outcome and one that will get us started on the way to Paris," according to ClimateWire.

Few were overjoyed, however. The Union of Concerned Scientists said the talks ended with "decisions that represent the bare minimum needed to move the process to Paris," and several advocates expressed dismay that the text grew weaker during the final stages of the talks.

Still, the outcome advances plans for a global climate pact that will, unlike the 1997 Kyoto protocol, ensure at least some level of action on emissions by the big developing countries where pollution is rising.

Robert Stavins, a Harvard University expert on global climate policy, said in a blog post Sunday that negotiators are now on track for a final pact that brings every nation into the fold. "A new way forward has been established in which all countries participate and which therefore holds promise of meaningful global action to address the threat of climate change," writes Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

It (Probably) Won't Be Enough 

Despite cheers from negotiators leaving Lima, the deal falls short of ensuring the steep worldwide pollution cuts that scientists warn are needed to prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change.

The target of the United Nations-hosted climate process is to limit the rise in global temperatures to under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the architecture of the emerging plan rests on a series of nationally decided commitments that are unlikely to ensure the steep emissions cuts that experts say are needed to meet that target. Environmental watchdogs said the Lima deal would not achieve the stated aim. "The outcome here does little to break the world from a path to 3 degrees warming or higher," Oxfam said in a statement.

The IPCC has warned that global emissions must peak in the next few years before falling to zero by the end of the century for the world to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But global emissions, driven in part by the increased use of fossil fuels by nations such as India and China, are currently on the rise. 

Rich-Poor Divide Remains Stark

Rich and poor nations have long bickered over responsibility for rising emissions. That rift was on full display during the talks.

Negotiations ran into overtime due to wrangling over how the deal should address the rich-poor divide. The agreement does not absolve developing nations of responsibility. But it was designed to alleviate some of that burden for poor nations. The deal upholds the principle of "common but differentiated" responsibility, a term signaling that developed nations such as the U.S. still bear greater responsibility than developing countries to shoulder the costs of climate action.

Developing nations such as China and India also resisted calls from the European Union and the United States to publish statistics that would track compliance with the pledges, insisting that their countries' record-keeping infrastructure would not be up to the task.

At the close of the talks, experts noted that even with concessions made at Lima, the divide between rich and poor nations is likely to prove a sticking point at future talks. "Striking a new balance between developed and developing nations will clearly be one of the toughest pieces next year in Paris," Elliot Diringer, the executive vice President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, said.

Key Questions Remain 

Lima leaves a number of major questions unresolved, a feature of the talks that advocates say creates additional hurdles to be overcome for the Paris deal.

One point of contention was whether pledges should be subject to an independent audit as a test of their strength. The E.U. pushed for a stringent external review of commitments ahead of Paris, but developing nations like China and India balked. As a compromise, the final draft will require a review of the pledges a month before Paris, but the deal does not suggest that nations will be pushed to increase commitments contingent upon the results of the review.

Delegates also sidelined questions about the legal status of an eventual deal. The E.U. has called for legally binding emissions targets, while the U.S. has pushed back because of the political infeasibility of winning the Senate's stamp of approval for any legal agreement. The most likely outcome of the Paris talks, one kept on track in Lima, is a hybrid system in which nations' pledges to curb emissions would not be legally binding—but other aspects of the deal would be.

It is unclear how stringent the pledges will shape up to be. In one case, a section of the deal that originally said nations "shall include" various kinds of detailed information in the emissions pledges they will make was watered down to say "may include."

Finally, the Lima deal failed to fully address how developed nations plan to ensure that developing nations have access to a steady stream of capital as they work to meet their commitments.

Domestic Politics Matter

Meaningful action by the U.S., the world's second-largest greenhouse-gas polluter behind China, is seen as key to securing emissions curbs by other big emitters. The Obama administration is imposing first-time binding carbon emissions limits on power plants, the largest single source of unchecked emissions, and more broadly has agreed to cut the nation's pollution by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

But ascendant Capitol Hill Republicans have vowed a frontal assault on the White House's climate agenda. Obama and his climate advisers have pledged to block Republican-led efforts to undo regulations to curb emissions, as well as any attempts to kneecap assistance to developing nations to aid in the achievement of climate commitments, but it remains to be seen how the fight will play out when Republicans take the reins in Congress next year.

For the administration, holding the line against the GOP efforts will be crucial to ensuring the U.S. standing in global talks isn't undercut.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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