Can­cun cli­mate deal holds out hope

That's why the pack­age of de­ci­sions that came out of the con­fer­ence in Can­cun may well be this year's most im­por­tant Christ­mas present.

The Pak Banker - - Editorial - Con­nie Hede­gaard

Al­though Christ­mas and a cold win­ter are upon us, there is good rea­son to re­flect on global warm­ing and the re­cent cli­mate change con­fer­ence in Can­cun, Mex­ico. It may seem un­real in Europe now when our teeth are chat­ter­ing, but 2010 was ac­tu­ally one of the hottest years on record.

Weather-re­lated catas­tro­phes, from fires in Moscow to floods in Pak­istan and Venezuela are a fore­warn­ing of things to come, un­less we deal with the chal­lenge of cli­mate change. That's why the pack­age of de­ci­sions that came out of the con­fer­ence in Can­cun may well be this year's most im­por­tant Christ­mas present.

What is in the pack­age? Quite a bit. And Europe can be proud of hav­ing con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the con­tent.

The key points of the agree­ment con­cluded in Can­cun are based on the re­sults we achieved in Copen­hagen last year, in­clud­ing the 2 C tar­get and the pledges that coun­tries made in the run-up to Copen­hagen. It com­prises the com­mit­ment of de­vel­oped na­tions to pro­vide fi­nance for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries - $30 bil­lion in the short term (2010-2012) and $100 bil­lion an­nu­ally by 2020. And it in­cludes the rules for trans­parency - how coun­tries mea­sure and re­port their emis­sions. The last point may sound a bit tech­ni­cal, but in fact it is very po­lit­i­cal, as the rules are key to en­sur­ing that coun­tries de­liver on their prom­ises.

We also need the rules to be able to as­sess the im­pact of cli­mate projects in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries that are fi­nanced with Euro­pean tax­pay­ers' money. In Can­cun, all coun­tries - ex­cept for Bo­livia - agreed to what was agreed in Copen­hagen.

But Can­cun also took new steps. Be­sides tight­ened rules on trans­parency, the agree­ment con­tains de­tailed de­ci­sions for im­proved co­op­er­a­tion on technology be­tween North and South, an agree­ment on cli­mate adap­ta­tion in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and a mech­a­nism to re­verse de­for­esta­tion in the Trop­ics. These are sub­stan­tial de­ci­sions that will lead to con­crete ac­tion, and de­ci­sions with a clear Euro­pean fin­ger­print.

For ex­am­ple, An­dreas Carl­gren, Swedish en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, and his coun­ter­part from Gre­nada were ap­pointed to fine-tune the word­ing of the agree­ment's over­ar­ch­ing shared vi­sion. Along with Al­ge­ria, Span­ish State Sec­re­tary Teresa Rib­era forged the com­pro­mise on adap­ta­tion. In co­op­er­a­tion with Brazil, Chris Huhne, Bri­tish sec­re­tary of state for en­ergy and cli­mate change, was asked to han­dle the del­i­cate is­sue of the fu­ture of the Ky­oto Pro­to­col and find out how to an­chor the re­duc­tion pledges from Copen­hagen in the new agree­ment. And the newly ap­pointed en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter of France led the con­sul­ta­tions on technology. In other words, Europe played a key role in the po­lit­i­cal stage of the ne­go­ti­a­tions. We have strived to push things for­ward at the tech­ni­cal level with a steady stream of analy­ses, text in­put and sug­ges­tions, and in re­la­tion to the strat­egy.

You don't have to take my word for that. Mex­i­can For­eign Min­is­ter Pa­tri­cia Espinosa ex­plic­itly said at a meet­ing with the Euro­pean Union (EU) on the last day of ne­go­ti­a­tions that with­out the con­struc­tive work of Europe it would have been im­pos­si­ble to bring the process back on track. A key rea­son why Europe has been able to make its mark on the agree­ment and help strengthen its am­bi­tion is that in Can­cun, we man­aged to col­lab­o­rate con­struc­tively and com­mu­ni­cate in a clear and co­or­di­nated man­ner.

It has long been said that Europe must speak with one voice, but there can­not be only one voice. Rather, we should de­cide on the mes­sages to­gether and then com­mu­ni­cate them clearly and con­sis­tently to the out­side world. That's what we did in Can­cun. And that's what we should be do­ing in the fu­ture to en­sure that Europe's word has an in­flu­ence wor­thy of the world's largest econ­omy.

Can­cun did not solve ev­ery­thing. The re­duc­tion com­mit­ments are not enough to keep the tem­per­a­ture in­crease be­low 2 de­grees. There are other out­stand­ing is­sues, too, such as the le­gal form of the agree­ment and how to pro­vide the long-term fi­nance. But Can­cun proved that the mul­ti­lat­eral process could de­liver re­sults. With­out an agree­ment the UN process would have been in im­mi­nent dan­ger.

Politi­cians and the pub­lic may have lost faith in the process and dis­carded it - with noth­ing to put in its place. Now we have a deal. But there is still much work ahead of us. Both in­ter­na­tion­ally, where we must still deal with the out­stand­ing is­sues, and do­mes­ti­cally where we now have to de­liver on what has been de­cided. In Europe we are al­ready work­ing on it.

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