The yearly global climate change negotiations kicked off on Monday in Cancun, Mexico, with fewer political leaders present, and lower expectations of forging a legally binding inclusive deal on climate change, than was the case at last year’s conference in Copenhagen.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christina Figueres welcomed the estimated 15 000 delegates at the start of the conference, stating that they should “weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change”.
This, she added, was urgent, because the multilateral climate change process needed to remain the trusted channel for rising to the challenge.
“When the stakes are high and the issues are challenging, compromise is an act of wisdom that can unite different positions in creative ways,” she said.
Figueres also stated that after Copenhagen and the signing of the Copenhagen Accord, a number of important developments had taken place in 2010.
Member countries were now required to formally adopt the emission cut pledges made in the Copenhagen Accord and agree how to measure, report and verify these actions. In the run up to Cancun, this has been a contentious issue between the US and China, in particular.
It was felt that the US needed to make clear its commitment to sound international rules comparable to those of other industrialised countries. It was also felt that China should agree to a form of international review of its national mitigation efforts.
One of the positive developments in 2010 was said to be the commitment to live up to the fast start finance pledged in Copenhagen, with developed countries announcing pledges totalling $28-billion.
However, a number of politically charged issues would need to be resolved at the 2010 conference.
The need to avoid a gap after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012, and clarity on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol was vital, as was deciding how the mitigation proposals put forward by industrialised countries in 2010 could help achieve clarity on this.
Differences between countries, such as Japan, the US, China and India, on what such a continuation of the treaty should look like, continued to slow progress.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa climate change programme manager Richard Worthington said that WWF South Africa was optimistic that the country’s national delegation would be resolute in securing clear decisions on finance, specifically for adaptation, and also the adoption of a mandate to decide on a legally binding framework in Durban in 2011.
WWF said that a spate of reports have highlighted a shortfall in actions to prevent climate change, and agreeing to a ‘catch-up plan’ was the pressing priority facing countries gathered at Cancun.
“At this point there is a clear disconnect between the stated goal of limiting global warming and international commitments in mitigation and finance,” said WWF Global Climate Initiative leader Gordon Shepherd.
“However, we are seeing growing momentum in several countries to act on climate at the national level.”
“The Cancun catch-up plan needs to make progress in several key areas, with the most promising being climate finance, safeguarding forests, finalising the agreement on helping vulnerable people adapt to climate impacts, and building up a transparent system for undertaking emission cuts.”
“What is important for Cancun is to build tools that enable action on the ground and build the architecture for such a global agreement, without waiting for the complete set of solutions to emerge all at once,” Sheperd added.
WWF emphasised that the creation of a global climate fund should be agreed and that a clear statement made about how to implement new sources of climate finance that were proposed.
The organisation added that the adaptation text must be finalised and decisions made on the various options available. On the issue of addressing “loss and damage”, parties needed to be ready to address the fact that some climate impacts were already irreversible and vulnerable countries and communities should be supported once such loss occurs.
The existing text on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation should be strengthened to establish sound national systems that ensure indigenous people and biodiversity will be protected, and the causes for deforestation are addressed by industrialised and developing countries.