COP16, UN climate talks in Cancun conclude

14 décembre 2010

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The 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 6th Conference of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (jointly “COP16”), in Cancun, Mexico, concluded on December 11th.

The negotiations in Cancun came almost a year after the summit in Copenhagen where high level negotiations fell short of producing a binding post-2012 pact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing aid to developing countries.

With no expectation of a binding global treaty resulting from the conference, the Cancun summit concluded with the release of the Cancun Agreement, a United Nations backed deal that commits countries to increase their effort to battle climate change and preserve key principles of the Kyoto protocol. The Cancun Agreement, which endorses the view that climate change is “one of the greatest challenges of our time” which requires long-term and cooperative action in order to prevent devastating global impacts, commits all countries to boosting their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to allow for such plans to be scrutinized by the international community.

The Agreement also fleshes out the promise of developed countries in Copenhagen to provide $100 billion (U.S.) by 2020 to aid in greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the developing world. Under the Agreement, developed countries have agreed to set up a “Green Climate Fund” to manage the promised aid; set up technology-transfer programs to help developing countries adopt renewable energy technologies, and fund projects to reduce deforestation and encourage tree planting. The fund is to initially be managed by the World Bank.

Under the Agreement, countries have committed to looking at extending the Kyoto protocol with a new round of emission-reduction targets for the post 2012 period. However the heavy lifting of such negotiations have been left for subsequent COP summits in Durban, South Africa in 2011 and South Korea in 2012.

For its part, at COP16 Canada refused to provide a commitment to new Kyoto targets, preferring the more flexible Copenhagen approach. Canada also objected to the commitment for developed nations that are signatories of Kyoto to cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. As a result of its commitments under the Copenhagen Accord, the Government of Canada has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, but only if the United States takes comparable action. These commitments have not changed as a result of COP16.

Following the Cancun summit Canada’s Environment Minister, the Hon. John Baird, described the Cancun Agreement as a modest step forward, noting “It’s a first step to a single, new, legally binding agreement”. Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada's Chief Negotiator and Ambassador for Climate Change noted “We have laid good groundwork for further progress in these complex negotiations.”

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