UN climate talks close with countries in agreement

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New Mexico Independent, Cancun, Mexico

At Friday night’s closing plenary, delegates to the United Nation’s climate talks emphasized compromise and balance.

Following the ceremony, they returned to meetings, and in the early morning hours on Saturday, agreed to continue discussions next year on the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period and the design of a Green Climate Fund and the creation of low-carbon development plans by industrialized nations.

In order to receive funding for new technology, developing countries have also been directed to prepare reports every two years detailing their progress on emissions reductions.

For two weeks, since November 29, negotiators and world leaders from 194 countries have been meeting to achieve consensus on issues such as climate change, carbon emission reductions, adaptation and mitigation.

Tagged “COP 16,” the meetings are the 16th annual Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

As expected, the Cancún Accord — agreed to by all countries save for Bolivia — contains no legal mandate for countries to reduce carbon emissions.

Actual funding for projects also remain unclear. And by and large, decisions were punted until next year’s conference in South Africa.

By coming to agreement on the actual document produced at Cancún, however, delegates gave the impression that the talks themselves are not a failure, as many said they were after last year’s negotiations in Copenhagen.

“Cancún has done its job,” declared UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, calling this year’s agreement a “beacon of hope.” “Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause,” she said. “They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all.”

The outcome at Cancún exceeded expectations, Dr. Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the climate change group at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, said in a statement, by resulting in a balanced agreement and restoring faith in the UNFCCC’s multilateral process.

“Its major outcomes are the creation of the Green Climate Fund, support for developing countries to adapt to climate-change impacts, and the foundations of systems that will protect forests and transfer climate-friendly technologies to developing nations,” he said. “Despite this, the big issue of emissions reductions (and legal commitments to make them real) has not been resolved but merely kept in play to be tackled at a later date.”

In a statement released Saturday morning, Greenpeace International Climate Policy Director Wendel Trio said that more could have been accomplished at Cancun had it not been for the influence of the United States, Russia and Japan.

“The latter two were unhelpful by their statements against the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol,” he said. “The US came to Mexico with feeble commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, despite being the world’s highest historical emitter, watered down several important areas of agreement and put a successful outcome in doubt.”

In related news, temperature data released on Friday from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies shows that 2010 has been the hottest year on record.

Laura Paskus is an Albuquerque-based independent writer and editor who is reporting from Cancún as an Earth Journalism Network Climate Media Fellow.

This blogpost originally appeared in the New Mexico Independent: http://newmexicoindependent.com/68331/un-climate-talks-close-with-countries-in-agreement