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Cancun agreements mark limited climate progress

  • 13 years ago (2010-12-15)
  • Junior Isles
North America 1004

The international climate conference in Cancún, which concluded this week, has resulted in several important agreements being finalised. Plans to launch a $100 billion Green Climate Fund to finance mitigation and adaptation in developing countries were completed. A framework for monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) emission reductions, and on principles for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) were other notable success.

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Expectations were downplayed for this round of talks, after a disappointing outcome from chaotic talks in Copenhagen last year, and mixed responses from commentators who feel the most controversial and important of issues have been ducked by negotiators.

Bolivia opposed the Cancún texts, describing them as “a hollow and false victory” that were imposed without consensus. Mark Kenber, deputy CEO of The Climate Group, an NGO working with business and policymakers said:“Agreement in Cancún is a major shot in the arm to the international climate process that should give business more of the certainty it needs to invest in the low-carbon economy” He added: “The Mexican government has led an impressive balancing act, rebuilding trust and reviving multilateral negotiations that were in real danger of permanent deadlock.”

In the eyes of Elliot Diringer, vice-president for international strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the Mexicans “took the very practical view that consensus does not mean strict unanimity. They refused to allow a vocal minority to impede the will of the vast majority.”

Diringer welcomed the outcome, but also warned against overstating the success of Cancún. “Essentially, parties have imported the essential elements of the Copenhagen Accord into the UN process – as well as the Accord’s mitigation pledges – and taken initial steps to implement them. To do that, they had to put aside differences over when and how to move toward a binding deal.”

Controversially, several landmark agreements were secured by avoiding the most problematic issues. For instance, countries established the Green Climate Fund to direct a significant share of the $100 billion of climate financing promised in Copenhagen, but did not decide on where the money should come from.

The agreement on REDD established a process for poorer countries to reduce deforestation and receive money from developed countries. But the complex issue of whether carbon markets should be used to finance REDD was sidestepped.

There was also little progress on deciding the future of the Kyoto Protocol, though carbon markets were reassured that the flexible mechanisms launched by the Kyoto Protocol – the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation – could continue in the absence of a second Kyoto period being agreed and the first period’s expiry in 2012.

Barclays Capital’s London-based carbon analyst Trevor Sikorski summed up the conference by commenting that “[There were] steps in the right direction for climate policy, but nothing to excite or move the global carbon market”.