Has Good News
for the United Nations
LUISA VARGAS (IDN)
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
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,"
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.
"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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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.
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