Sustainable Energy

Lima Climate Accord Might Boost Renewables

Nations agree to start drafting climate action plans, which could encourage greater investment in clean energy.

Greenhouse-gas emissions continue to surge worldwide, threatening to bring on severe climate change.

The United Nations climate negotiations that concluded over the weekend in Lima, Peru, included an agreement among 190 nations—rich and poor—to develop action plans over the next several months outlining how they will work to avert climate change. It is the first time so many nations have agreed to make such commitments.

This means more nations are likely to draft plans that embrace clean-tech innovation and renewable energy in advance of a hoped-for climate agreement in Paris next year, policy experts say.

“We see a clear role for setting bold renewable-energy targets that can cut emissions while boosting economic growth and energy diversity around the world,” says Risa Edelman, director of international programs at the American Council on Renewable Energy, an industry group based in Washington, DC.

The action plans are supposed to include statements about how each nation will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. They can include numerical reference points such as the time frame for reductions and a statement of how emissions will be calculated. The deadline for submission is the end of March 2015, with a second deadline in June for any stragglers.

Robert Stavins, an economist at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, says what’s most important is that the Lima talks achieved a broad geographic scope of participation that did not exist before. “Each agreement is no more than one step to be followed by others. And most important now for ultimate success later is a sound foundation, which is what the Lima decision can provide,” he wrote in a blog post on Monday.

And while the details are vague, the agreement seems likely to increase innovation, says David Victor, director of the Laboratory of International Law and Regulation at the University of California, San Diego. “This is a flexible system into which many more countries can, and will, be contributing efforts,” he said. Victor predicts that “many countries will include innovation policies in their pledges.”