Cancun outcomes put UN process back on track
Following the conclusion of the 16th conference of the parties (COP16) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancún, Mexico, UK Climate Change and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne welcomed the international agreement reached as a “turning point in the negotiations”.
In a statement to the House of Commons on 13 December, he explained how the outcomes exceeded the modest expectations of the conference:
“Expectations for the Cancun conference were not high. After Copenhagen, it seemed as if the very principle of multilateralism itself was on trial.
“Our objectives, therefore, were modest. We aimed to demonstrate that the UN process was back on track. We also hoped to put in place some of the building blocks for an eventual global agreement. To rebuild momentum.
“I am delighted to say that our expectations were not just met, but exceeded. The conference agreed a series of linked decisions under both its tracks: the Kyoto Protocol, and the framework for reaching a new and more comprehensive agreement. Emissions reduction pledges made under the Copenhagen Accord, by both developed and developing countries, provided a valuable starting point and have been brought into the UN climate convention framework. We can now assess the overall policy pledges against the requirements of the science.”
The Cancún Agreements
The package of decisions is seen by the UN as setting all governments more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and supporting enhanced action on climate change in the developing world. Highlights of the agreements include:
- Objective: agreement to peak emissions and overall 2 degree target to limit temperature rise;
- Emissions: bringing details of what developed and developing countries are doing to tackle climate change, promised in Copenhagen, into the UN system so they can be assessed;
- Measurable, Reportable, and Verifiable (MRV): agreement on a system so we know how countries are living up to their promises to take action on emissions;
- Long-term finance: establishment of Green Climate Fund to help developing countries go low carbon and adapt to climate impacts;
- Deforestation: agreement on REDD+ framework to slow, halt and reverse destruction of trees and agree the rules for delivering it and for monitoring progress;
- Technology / Adaptation: set up the mechanisms to help developing countries access low carbon technology, and adapt to climate change.
Welcoming the agreements
Support for the positive outcomes, with recognition of the work still to do, came from across Government, business and civil society.
Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged the achievements of Cancún while looking to the challenges ahead:
“The Cancún agreement is a very significant step forward in renewing the determination of the international community to tackle climate change through multilateral action. [...]
“Now the world must deliver on its promises. There is more hard work to be done ahead of the climate change conference in South Africa next year.
“I am clear that Britain will meet its international obligations. This will be the greenest ever British Government. And I will continue to make the case for a global, comprehensive and legally-binding climate agreement”
Neil Bentley, Confederation of Business Industry Director of Business Environment, called for a legally binding deal at next year’s conference in Durban, South Africa:
“Cancun is a step forward but there is still a long way to go. Businesses are committed to tackling climate change, but there is only so much they can do without a comprehensive global agreement on emissions reduction.
“Such a deal could unlock great new low-carbon markets for our economy, and until this is reached, concerted action will be slow.
“We must use progress at Cancun as a starter’s pistol for getting a legally binding deal next year that will cut emissions and help drive green growth.”
Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said:
“After Copenhagen it was hoped that Cancun could establish a platform for progressing action on climate change. Despite some last minute hiccups, countries leave here with a renewed sense of goodwill and some sense of purpose. The UK and EU must not squander this chance – they need to champion much more ambitious action to cut emissions and close the gigatonne gap.”
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