Post written by Mariana Delgado, LLM candidate 2015, Pace Law School
This year’s twentieth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be hosted by the Government of Peru in Lima. The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994 and it recognized (with far less scientific evidence than we have now) the existence of an important problem: climate change. Thus, the UNFCCC’s main objective, as stated in article two, is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations
at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system
In order to address the problem recognized by the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol entered into force on February 16, 2005. The Kyoto Protocol recognized that developed countries were principally responsible for the current high levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity. For this reason, the Kyoto Protocol placed a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.” It is worth mentioning that the United States – even though a party to the UNFCCC – signed but did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ended on December 31, 2012. However, in COP 18 in Doha, the parties agreed to extend the validity of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020 and also agreed to come up with a successor document on 2015 – in COP 21 in Paris – that should be implemented from 2020.
COP 20 in Lima will be the last stop before COP 21 in Paris. Thus, COP 20 will be the last stop before the parties adopt a new agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol and that will shape the commitments for the future of our climate.
Regarding COP 20 in Lima, there are positive signs that suggest that the conference will allow often-suppressed voices to be heard. Peru has a large indigenous population and the COP 20 in Lima will see a large indigenous presence. On July 4, 2014 the Peruvian office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), representatives of COP 20, and the government of Norway all signed an agreement that will help indigenous peoples attend the conference. The UNDP and Norway will provide logistical support for indigenous leaders to have a pavilion during the conference. This will give them the opportunity to voice their specific concerns about climate change and other environmental challenges that affect their people, like deforestation and resource extraction. The participants will represent the Indigenous Organization of the Amazon Basin (COICA), an entity that oversees the indigenous communities that live in the nine nations that share the Amazon Basin. The agreement will make COP 20 the first Conference of the Parties with indigenous participation.
Consequently, COP 20 will not only be important because it will be the last step before COP 21 in Paris – the last step before adopting a new agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol – but also because this conference will allow the indigenous and native peoples to participate in the decision-making process. It is important to allow the participation of indigenous peoples in the decision-making process, because they are the most affected by climate change and can provide us with information – obtained through their traditional knowledge – that would help the parties reach the best and most efficient solutions to address climate change.