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Sunday, December 12, 2010

What did Cancun accomplish?

The Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico has wrapped up after a long chilling week. So just what was accomplished at this big conflab? Ronald Bailey has a summary at Here's a snippet:

It would be cynical to call it a bribe, but the Cancun agreements were largely reached because the rich countries continued their vague promises to hand over $100 billion in climate aid annually to poor countries beginning in 2020.

Basically the deal on emissions is that countries will agree to agree on cuts at the next climate change conference in Durban. Big developing country emitters like China and India still refused to agree to any legally binding limits on their emissions. Of course, neither did the developed countries.


I repeat the highlights of the Cancun Agreements below:

(1) As far as I can tell, the COP has indeed kicked the Cancun down the road by agreeing that they "shall aim to complete" further commitments by rich countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions "as early as possible." They do include the saving phrase "and in time to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment period." Translation: Additional cuts should be agreed to before 2012. The telling words are "shall aim to complete." No real promises here.

(2) The shared vision says that the parties set the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions "so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels...." The parties will think about trying to hold average temperature increase to 1.5 later after further scientific review in 2015.

(3) The shared vision drops the earlier text that would have required that the world cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and that developed countries cut their emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050. Instead, the parties will "work towards identifying a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050" and consider it at the next meeting in Durban.

(4) The shared vision also drops the proposal that global greenhouse gases should peak by 2015.

(5) The text also sets up a process for creating a system for accounting and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries. As far as I can tell from reading the rather opaque text, the U.S. has not been roped into a process that leads to legally binding emissions reduction commitments.

(6) China, India and other emerging countries also have not been roped into legally binding commitments, but if they take mitigation actions that are supported by outside money, those activities will be subject to some kind of international auditing. On the other, the world will have take their words for their domestically funded activities.

(7) The text also says that the parties decide to establish a Green Climate Fund under the authority of the Conference of the Parties with a board of directors consisting of 24 members, half of whom will be from rich countries and half from poor countries. The devloped country parties commit to "mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries."

Not much commitment to reducing carbon emissions there, but that $100,000,000,000 per year ain't no chump change!

And that's what it's always been about.

Update #1: JoNova has a roundup of the media response and says it was all about the PR:
After the awful post-Climategate-and-Copenhagen year, more than anything else, the Big Scare Campaign needed a PR win. And in that sense Cancun was a major victory. Nobody agreed to anything legally binding, Kyoto was not extended, and all they achieved amounted to nothing more than an extension of the yearly junkets, and the promise that the gravy train is not dead yet. But the headlines will warm the hearts of all on Team-Scare-Us. The most important thing for the side that’s losing friends, faith and face, was to regain momentum. They’re trying to stop the death spiral.
Update #2: From the Christian Science Monitor:
To prevent the talks from collapsing, the language had to accommodate the developing countries that are clinging to Kyoto as well as a Japan that wants very little to do with it any longer. Observers described the language as “weak” without a direct call for countries to pledge reductions in the second commitment period. [...]

“Anything that is said about a legally binding outcome in the future must make it very clear that that is a legally binding outcome that would apply to at least all the major countries including China, India, Brazil, and so forth,” says Todd Stern, the US special climate envoy.
The Wall Street Journal:
World leaders at a climate-change conference in Cancun, Mexico, made clear that addressing the issue will be all about money, agreeing that rich countries would spend potentially trillions of dollars to help poor countries develop on a greener path.

But the diplomats postponed hashing out which rich countries would pay how much, and exactly what the poor countries would have to do to get the checks.

The two-week United Nations climate conference in the resort city of Cancun underscored that future global efforts to address climate change will likely depend more on economic incentives than on environmental mandates.
From Reuters:
(Reuters) - Global carbon markets will struggle after the deal reached at annual U.N. climate talks did little to ensure mandatory emissions caps would be extended next year.

1 comment:

JR said...

Merry Christmas!