Monday, December 13, 2010

"Cancún Agreements" Unite Nations To Address Climate Change

Dec 11: The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, ended on Saturday with the adoption of what the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) called 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." According to a release, the package, dubbed the "Cancún Agreements" was welcomed to repeated loud and prolonged applause and acclaim by Parties in the final plenary. The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in South Africa, from November 28 to December 9,  2011.

    UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, "Cancún 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. 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."

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying, "Over the last year, the United States has worked with our international partners to build on the progress achieved at the climate change conference in Copenhagen. We have pressed for substantive steps that would advance the vision of the Copenhagen Accord. This month we joined the nations of the world in Cancun for a new round of talks aimed at mobilizing common action to meet the shared global challenge of climate change. Today, I am pleased to announce that we secured the Cancun Agreements, a set of balanced international decisions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which represent meaningful progress in our global response to climate change.
    "This outcome advances each of the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord: They anchor the Accord's mitigation pledges; build on a system of transparency, with substantial detail and content of International Consultations and Analysis which will provide confidence that a country's pledges are being carried out; launch a new Green Climate Fund; create a framework to reduce deforestation in developing countries; establish a technology mechanism; and setup a framework and committee to will promote international cooperation and action on adaptation. The Cancun Agreements represent a balanced and significant step forward. In the days and months ahead, the United States will work with our friends and partners to keep the world focused on this urgent challenge and to continue building on this progress. 

    UNFCCC indicated that 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, "Nations 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. And they agreed to launch concrete action to preserve forests in developing nations, which will increase going forward. They also agreed that countries 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."

    According to a UNFCCC summary the key elements of the Cancún Agreements include:
• Industrialized country targets are officially recognized 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 recognized 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 industrialized countries. Developing countries are to publish progress reports every two years.
• Parties meeting under the 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 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.
• 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 industrialized 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 is included in the decisions.
• In the field of climate finance, a process to design a Green Climate Fund under the Conference of the Parties, with a board with equal representation from developed and developing countries, is established.
• A new "Cancún 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.
    Todd Stern, U.S. Department of State, Special Envoy for Climate Change held press briefing at the conclusion of the conference and had high praise for the Agreements. He said a "balance package" of agreements on the key issues which he hoped would be addressed had in fact been achieved. He said the Agreements are "very good" and build on the achievements of the Copenhagen Accord. He said the Cancun Agreements "anchor" the pledges of the Copenhagen Accord including the targets for emissions reductions; "robust" transparency procedures, climate funds, technology mechanisms, REDD, mitigation and adaptation. In summary "sckelital ideas" of the Copenhagen Accord which were not officially approved have now been "elaborated and approved" in the Cancun Agreements.
    "Climate Action Tracker," an independent science-based assessment, developed by the German-based organizations Climate Analytics and Ecofys, which tracks the emission commitments and actions of countries has already developed and up-to-date assessment (post-Cancun Agreements) of individual national pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

    According to the analysis, "Current emission reduction pledges, after the close of the Cancun climate conference, fall short of what is needed to get the world on track for limiting global warming to 2 and 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Both of these warming limits are mentioned in the agreement. To keep warming limited to these targets, global total emissions need to drop below 44 billion tonnes CO2eq per year by 2020. After adding up reduction proposals of individual countries and taking into account accounting provisions, expected global emissions leave a gap of 12 billion tonnes CO2eq/yr by 2020. In Cancun, countries discussed a wide range of options that influence the size of the gap. If countries would implement the most stringent reductions they have proposed with most stringent accounting, the remaining 'reduction gap' would shrink to 8 billion tonnes CO2eq/yr."
   Despite the praise for the Agreements from the delegates and participants, environmental groups are also calling the results "modest." For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Director of Strategy and Policy Alden Meyer said, "The outcome in Cancún wasn't enough to save the climate but it did restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made." UCS indicated that, "On a macro level, the conference fell short of what is needed. The collective actions pledged by countries remain insufficient to meet the challenge of climate change. And the declarations by both Japan and Russia that they have no intention of taking on emissions reduction targets when the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period starts in 2013 almost derailed the talks -- and point to the challenges ahead."
    Jennifer Haverkamp, managing director of Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) international climate program said, "The conference pushed forward a modest, but important package of climate initiatives. The U.N. has now put its seal of approval on compensating countries for protecting their forests. And Mexico's skillful leadership here has helped to rebuild confidence in the U.N. process. The overall outcome represents only a fraction of what's needed," said Haverkamp. "Despite the best efforts by many countries, glaciers are still melting faster than this process is moving."
    Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), said in a statement today, "Progress was made on a number of important issues, but it's clear the Senate's failure to pass clean energy legislation tied the hands of negotiators to come to a full global deal. Formally recognizing the Copenhagen reduction targets -- including the U.S. 17 percent reductions by 2020 -- still leaves the world woefully short of what needs to be done to tackle the climate crisis. The stakes are too high to let lawmakers captured by special interests drive what happens on the international stage. America's role as a world power, and it's outsized emissions require us to show good faith and constructive engagement so we can achieve a binding climate accord. These qualities were absent far too often in Cancun. To ensure the chances of success in South Africa next year, the administration must start now to show the rest of the world it's acting to reduce its global warming pollution at home."
    U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released a statement saying, "I am encouraged that the negotiators from nations around the world have made real, substantive progress in Cancun on important issues including transparency and verification of emissions reductions; forest protection; and helping countries transition to clean energy and adapt to a changing climate. Global warming is a global problem and international cooperation is crucial to addressing this challenge. It is also vitally important to keep making progress on clean energy here at home, so we can create jobs, cut dangerous carbon pollution, and move away from our billion-dollar-a-day dependence on foreign oil."
    Access a release from the UNFCCC (click here). Access the statement from Secretary of State Clinton (click here). Access links to the complete Cancun Agreements (click here). Access the webcast of Todd Stern's December 11 press briefing (click here). Access links to all COP16/CMP6 webcasts (click here). Access the Climate Action Tracker release and link to the complete analysis (click here). Access the UCS release (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release from NWF (click here). Access a release from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access a 30-page summary and analysis from IISD (click here). Access the State Department COP16/CMP6 website including links to press briefings, the U.S. Center, extensive other links, schedules, reports and fact sheets (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for complete details, documents and live, on-demand webcasts (click here). Access the Mexico host country COP16 website (click here). Access detailed, day-by-day coverage from IISD (click here).