January
 2011

Vol. 10 - No. 7


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CLIMATE CHANGE: COP 16 


 

Cancun Has Good News for the United Nations

BY MARIA LUISA VARGAS (IDN)

 

The agreements achieved at the climate change conference in Cancun underline that that the United Nations' decision to refrain from setting a high expectation bar ahead of the international gathering was most appropriate. Of critical importance is also that it has reinstated faith in multilateral processes under the umbrella of the United Nations.

The conference is "not intended to establish the ultimate framework for comprehensive global action", the secretariat of what is officially known as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said on the eve of the gathering in the Mexican spa resort from November 29 to December 10.

The Bonn-based UNFCCC secretariat has all the more reason now to rejoice at the adoption of a balanced package of decisions that "set all governments more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world".

The outcome has been described as an "important success for a world much in need of it" by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Governments came together in common cause, for the common good, and agreed on a way forward to meet the defining challenge of our time," he said in a statement.

Much of the credit for the conference not ending up in a fiasco, as the Copenhagen gathering in December 2009 did, goes to the Mexican hosts -- President Felipe Calderon and Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, who presided over the conference -- as well the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. Unlike Copenhagen, Cancun was both inclusive and transparent.

The package, described as the 'Cancun Agreements', was welcomed to repeated loud and prolonged applause and acclaim by Parties to the UNFCCC -- with the eminent exception of Bolivia -- in the final plenary.

"Cancun has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored," said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Figueres. "Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause. They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all," she said.

The fact that faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored is indeed noteworthy because detractors of multilateralism saw in the tough climate change negotiations an obvious proof that these would have to be carried outside of the UN in regional or sub-regional groupings.

"Governments have given a clear signal that they are headed towards a low-emissions future together, they have agreed to be accountable to each other for the actions they take to get there, and they have set it out in a way which encourages countries to be more ambitious over time," Figueres said.

In Cancun representatives of 193 countries launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the poor and the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures. They also agreed to launch concrete action to preserve forests in developing nations, which will increase going forward.

Delegates from around the world also agreed that nations need to work to stay below a two degree temperature rise, and they set a clear timetable for review, to ensure that global action is adequate to meet the emerging reality of climate change.

NEW BEGINNING

"This is not the end, but it is a new beginning. It is not what is ultimately required but it is the essential foundation on which to build greater, collective ambition," said Figueres, the UNFCCC executive secretary, a Costa Rican national.

Elements of the Cancun Agreements include:

- Industrialised country targets are officially recognised under the multilateral process and these countries are to develop low-carbon development plans and strategies and assess how best to meet them, including through market mechanisms, and to report their inventories annually.

- Developing country actions to reduce emissions are officially recognised under the multilateral process. A registry is to be set up to record and match developing country mitigation actions to finance and technology support from by industrialised countries. Developing countries are to publish progress reports every two years.

- Parties meeting under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol agree to continue negotiations with the aim of completing their work and ensuring there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the treaty. The first commitment period ends 2012. Japan, which appeared to be rejecting the 'extension' of Kyoto Protocol, is party to the decision

- The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanisms has been strengthened to drive more major investments and technology into environmentally sound and sustainable emission reduction projects in the developing world.

- The country Parties launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures.

- A total of $30 billion in fast start finance from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the intention to raise $100 billion in long- term funds by 2020 are an integral part of the 'Cancun Agreements'.

- In the field of climate finance, a process to design a Green Climate Fund under the Conference of the Parties (COP), with a board comprising equal representation from developed and developing countries, is established.

- A new 'Cancun Adaptation Framework' is established to allow better planning and implementation of adaptation projects in developing countries through increased financial and technical support, including a clear process for continuing work on loss and damage.

- Governments agree to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support.

- Parties have established a technology mechanism with a Technology Executive Committee and Climate Technology Centre and Network to increase technology cooperation to support action on adaptation and mitigation.

An important aspect of these decisions is that these are being carried home by delegations of industrialised and developing countries, including the U.S. and China, the biggest polluters in absolute terms.

Bolivia's decision not to support the Cancun Agreements is grounded on the fact that none of the elements are legally binding. And, as the head of the country's delegation, Pablo Solon, told journalists ahead of the final plenary, the proposal to curb global temperatures at two degrees Celsius was totally inadequate. Emissions from war and weapons, which should have been included as part of global emissions, were not considered.

He said the proposals could open the door to an agreement that would replace the Kyoto Protocol. Even the market mechanism, which Bolivia has been opposing all along, found a place in the drafts. Also, the Green Fund did not specify where the resources would be generated from, he said.

How far the agreements are taken seriously remains to be seen. The next Conference of the Parties dubbed as COP17, scheduled to take place in South Africa, from November 28 to December 9, 2011, will be critical.

With 194 Parties, UNFCCC has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 191 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.

The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.


[Source: IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters]

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