Durban, South Africa has emerged as the next host of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change as world leaders rose from their eleven day meeting in Cancun, Mexico, with a new legal framework to combat global carbon emission.
The 16th UNFCC in Cancun Mexico ended on a friendly note save Bolivian walk out on the final day but this did not prevent the Governments today reached an historic deal on climate change that commits all major economies to greenhouse gas cuts.
The deal, brokered at international talks in Cancún, has been hailed as restoring faith in the multilateral UN process but will not reduce temperatures as much as scientists say is needed, and it pushes many of the most important decisions to future negotiations.
The deal, which took four years of negotiations to reach, should lead to less deforestation, the transfer of technology to developing countries and the establishment of a yearly fund, potentially worth up to $100bn (£64bn), to help countries adapt to climate change.
“This is way better than what we were expecting only a few weeks ago. It’s a good deal which gives a new sense of momentum to [climate change] discussions. There was nothing inevitable about this package,” said Chris Huhne, energy and climate change secretary who has led the UK’s negotiating team.
“This is a significant turning point. It clearly says that there should be reductions from developing countries. I would like to have seen a 2020 date for global emissions to peak but this takes us forward to a legally-binding overall outcome,” he added.
In a series of late night exchanges, the only opposition came from Bolivia who complained that the deal was being pushed through without consensus. It eventually gave in after intense pressure from the chair of the talks and other countries.
“This has violated the multilateral rules because they didn’t respect the consensus they are breaking the rules,” said Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s ambassador to the UN, “This agreement won’t stop temperature from rising by 4C and we know that 4C is unsustainable,” he added.
Japan, the one rich country that tried to delay progress in the talks by refusing to sign up to a second commitment period to the Kyoto protocol, gave in after complex legal manoeuvres and pressure from other G20 countries.
Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner for climate action, had earlier in the week spoken of a “very frank exchange of views” with the Japanese delegation. Welcoming the deal, she said, “We have helped to deliver the successful outcome the world expected and needed. But the two weeks in Cancún have shown once again how slow and difficult the process is. Everyone needs to be aware that we still have a long and challenging journey ahead of us to reach the goal of a legally binding global climate framework.”
The deal was greeted with strong reservations by environment groups. “With lives on the line, we must now build on this progress. Long term funding must be secured to help vulnerable countries protect themselves,” said Oxfam director Jeremy Hobbs.
“Cancun may have saved the process but it did not yet save the climate,” said Greenpeace International Climate Policy Director Wendel Trio. “Some called the [UN] process dead but governments have shown that they can cooperate and can move forward to achieve a global deal.”
Friends of the Earth International Director Nnimmo Bassey said the agreement was “a slap in the face of those who already suffer from climate change”, and could still lead to a temperature rises of 5C. “In the end, all of us will be affected by the lack of ambition and political will of a small group of countries. The US, with Russia and Japan, are to blame for the lack of desperately needed greater ambition,” said Friends of the Earth international director.
Other measures agreed in outline included the established of a climate fund to handle and deliver the billions needed for the developing world to adapt to climate change and a system to inspect the actions taken to avoid climate change by rich and larger developing countries.
However, no date was included in the agreement by when countries must “peak” their emissions. This is considered essential to avoid more serious problems later.
Developing country actions to reduce emissions are officially recognised under the multilateral process. A registry is to be set up to record and match developing country mitigation actions to finance and technology support from by industrialised countries. Developing countries are to publish progress reports every two years.
The countries meeting under the Kyoto Protocol agreed to continue negotiations with the aim of completing their work and ensuring there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the treaty.
The Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanisms has been strengthened to drive more major investments and technology into environmentally sound and sustainable emission reduction projects in the developing world.
Parties launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures.
A total of $30 billion in fast start finance from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the intention to raise $100 billion in long-term funds by 2020 is included in the decisions.
In the field of climate finance, a process to design a Green Climate Fund under the Conference of the Parties, with a board with equal representation from developed and developing countries, was established.
A new Cancún Adaptation Framework. was established to allow better planning and implementation of adaptation projects in developing countries through increased financial and technical support, including a clear process for continuing work on loss and damage.