When the Cancun Climate Summit began, we mentioned the modest goals most nations set going in (especially in the wake of 2009’s messy Copenhagen meeting). Indeed, the United Nations climate meeting in Mexico didn’t shoot for the stars in terms of emissions reductions, but the nations assembled at least agreed to a few limited proposals and set the stage for next year.
The agreement is not a legally binding one, but it includes:
1. The package known as the Cancún Agreements gives the more than 190 countries participating in the conference another year to decide whether to extend the frayed Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that requires most wealthy nations to trim their emissions while providing assistance to developing countries to pursue a cleaner energy future. [The New York Times]
Kyoto’s targets were for the year 2012. The question for the 2011 meeting in South Africa, then, will be whether it’s possible to get everyone on board with a Kyoto extension or some other emissions reduction agreement. (Cancun did bring one promising sign, as the nations agreed in principle to allow outside inspection to check the validity of their emissions cuts.)
2. It includes a scheme to provide financial support for countries to preserve their forests, in a bid to combat deforestation which accounts for almost a fifth of global annual emissions, and makes progress on how countries’ actions are going to be monitored and verified. [The Independent]
After the mess of a meeting at the last international climate summit, one year ago in Copenhagen, the easy answer to “what might the world accomplish at this year’s meeting in Cancun?” is, well, nothing. That’s essentially the posture of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva toward the current talks.
“No big leader is going, only environment ministers at best. We don’t even know if foreign ministers are going. So there won’t be any progress,” Lula, who himself decided not to travel to Mexico, told reporters in Brasilia. [AFP]
Just about everyone present concedes the world doesn’t have the stomach or inclination for serious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. But will anything—even agreements on incremental changes—come out of Cancun?
Leaders of the United Nations and European Union echoed Lula’s pessimism when it comes to dealing with carbon dioxide. CO2, however, while it incites most of the political rancor about climate agreements, isn’t the only greenhouse gas.
Other potent warming agents include three short-lived gases — methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles. The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes. The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place. [The New York Times]
Closing a logging loophole?