Cancun agreement builds towards a global climate deal

Feature story - December 13, 2010
Governments in Cancun, Mexico, have chosen hope over fear and put the building blocks back in place for a global deal to combat climate change. For the first time in years, governments put aside some major differences and compromised to reach a climate agreement.

Activist throw delegates a lifeline as the Cancun climate talks enter their final day.

However, with large compromise also comes disappointment. The UN climate conference in Cancun may have saved the multilateral process after last year's abject failure in Copenhagen but we have not yet been saved from climate change. After years of walk outs, public booing, blocking and the collapse of talks, governments have shown that they can compromise and cooperate, key ingredients in moving forward to achieve a global deal.

More could have been accomplished in Cancun if not for the negative influence of the United States, Russia and Japan. The latter two were unhelpful by their statements against the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, while the US came to Mexico with meager commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, despite being the world’s highest emitter in history, watered down several important areas of agreement and put a successful outcome in doubt.

Governments have a lot of work to do now to follow through on the Cancun agreement, specifically they need to double their efforts to cut emissions.  For those of us in civil society we need to demand that our leaders to redouble their efforts to drive change at home.

Here are the major points of work that will need to be followed in order to make this agreement a real one and a good one.

  • On the key issue of climate finance, Governments established a fund to deliver the billions needed for the developing world to deal with climate change and stop deforestation. But they didn’t establish any way of providing that money.
  • Another major decision on the table in Cancun deals with a mechanism that will protect tropical forests while safeguarding indigenous peoples' rights and biodiversity. The REDD agreement sidesteps some critical parts that must be defined and strengthened over the coming months.
  • Governments not only acknowledged the gap between their current weak pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions and where they need to get to, they actually stated that cuts needed to be in line with the science – 25 to 40 percent cuts by 2020 – and that they need to keep global temperature rise below two degrees.



Greenpeace's hot air ballon flies over the Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico. © Promteo Lucero / Greenpeace

So they have recongnised the scale of the problem, now they need a deal to match. That deal needs to be struck twelve months from now in Durban, South Africa for COP17.