Cancún – Success or Failure?

Neither nor. The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, had an end yesterday. It has achieved surprisingly much when you consider the pessimistic forecasts (success). It has achieved very little when you consider the actual needs (failure). With other words: we have not been dropped back, but we have not come further as well. We are standing still. It is sad that this is considered a success by many.

What are the main points of agreement? Here they are (after taz and Spiegel):

  • the scientifically emphasized aim to hold the temperature rise down to 2° C is an outspoken (but not more – it is not binding) goal; between 2013 and 2015 there will be a monitoring round of national reduction goals in the light of this global goal;
  • reduction commitments will be internationally monitored (China surprisingly accepted that in the end);
  • there will be a new mechanism, the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation): the idea is to pay countries for not logging their forests (but: it wasn’t agreed where the money shall come from);
  • from 2012 through 2020 industrial countries will provide $30 billion per annum for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries (through a Green Climate Fund); from 2020 it will be $100 billion (but, again: where shall the money come from?);
  • CCS-projects will be included in the Clean Development Mechanism (good news for the European energy corporations, e.g. Vattenfall – they will be able to extend their research on CCS while getting emission rights in return);
  • there was an agreement (but no commitment – for that we have to wait until 2011, when the next summit will be held in Durban, South Africa) that the Kyoto protocol shall be prolonged: good news for China and the US, for they thus remain without internationally binding emissions reduction goals.

What is lacking? The main points (additionally to things I already mentioned above) are:

  • there is no agreement about agriculture and land use as a source of emissions (while they are a huge one);
  • “hot air”: post-Communist countries in Eastern Europe “reduced” their emissions by far bigger amounts than they were supposed to according to the Kyoto agreement (they did because of the economic slowdown in the transformation years) – what to do with that?;
  • nothing agreed on in Cancún is legally binding.

So, the success of Cancún is that we are standing still instead of falling back. But not more.


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