Starting in Cancun

After the failure of Copenhagen to agree a new climate treaty, expectations for this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP-16) in Cancún, Mexico are lower.  Cancun also hosts the sixth meeting of the COP/MOP – the same Parties, minus the US – meeting as Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Contrary to popular belief, the Protocol does not expire in 2012, only its first commitment period ends then. So the first big issue is the future of the Kyoto Protocol.  We certainly hope it will – not least it would waste more than a decade of negotiations. But even worse, what we would get now would almost certainly be weaker – no compliance, weaker accounting and targets for developed countries.

The other big question remains – what about the US and its mitigation? and what how far will action by  China and some other developing countries go?  Without broader efforts, the problem simply cannot be solved.  Which brings us back to a treaty, because without new obligations, there seems little chance that the level of ambition will be high enough to address the root cause – human emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).

However much is agreed, it is already clear that some impacts of climate change are unavoidable. Adaptation is therefore the other major issue.  Here, the key will be to create a more coherent legal framework to implement practical adaptation actions – and to fund them. The funding issue is particularly critical in the most vulnerable countries, which tend to be the poorest – Least Developed Countries, small island developing states and Africa.

A “set of balanced decisions” is how  many negotiators see the outcome from Cancún. Decisions would include REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries), technology transfer, finance and adaptation.  The question is whether that’s all, or whether that sets up “legally binding agreement” – a new treaty in future. Or even better, if Cancún can agree to launch a treaty negotiation – or indeed two – one to continue the Kyoto Protocol and another to have a new treaty that would include the US and some developing countries on mitigation, a framework for implementing adaptation, and new financial obligations by  developed countries to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.

For more info on the Cancún meeting, read

ECO, the NGO newsletter;

the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, with blow-by-blow accounts;