Monday, December 13, 2010

The Cancun Agreements

Friday marked the last day of COP 16—the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Following last year’s disastrous conference in Copenhagen, delegates from 193 countries met in Cancun with little fanfare and low expectations. The Cancun Agreements, drafted and released Saturday morning,are actually being met with general satisfaction.

On the positive side,the agreements are laudable: emissions reduction, limits to deforestation, financial support for countries affected by climate change. According to the Economic Times, global temperatures are to be restricted to a rise of 2 degrees C (3.6 F) over pre-industrial levels. Wealthy countries are to cut their emissions by 25-40% by 2020 over 1990 levels. In addition, as Grist describes in a surprisingly supportive article, the changes that developed and developing countries must make to their systems of monitoring and reporting on emissions. For example, developed countries will have to submit annual reports of their emissions, and developing countries will have to report every two years on their progress in cutting emissions.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

COP16: Cancun

Last Monday, delegates started meeting in Cancun, Mexico, for COP16—the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Every year, officials from participating countries meet to discuss environmental issues and, we hope, make agreements to remedy those issues. Last year, they met in Copenhagen at a disastrous summit that ended in the notorious Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding, three-page “statement of intention” that participating countries merely “took note of” rather than adopted officially.

This year, 194 nations are sending representatives to Cancun for negotiations, but expectations for any binding agreements are low. Heads of state and high-level leaders are generally not attending. The ultimate goal at Cancun is to come to an agreement about extension of or successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty that mandated reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions, primarily for wealthy countries. Kyoto expires on December 31, 2012, and without an extension or a new treaty, the world will be left without any significant, binding climate-change agreements. The United States never ratified Kyoto.