The Cancun Summit: Making up for Copenhagen

It’s been one year since the world witnessed the fiasco that was the Copenhagen Summit. At that event, some 120 world leaders were supposed to have arrived at a new climate deal but ended up instead with a non-binding agreement, the so-called Copenhagen Accord–a spectacular failure to deliver on promises of a post-Kyoto agreement to roll back the threat of climate change.

In an attempt to heal the wounds of Copenhagen, nearly 200 countries will take part in a 12-day conference starting today in the Mexican resort city of Cancun. The aim is to make a degree of progress on half dozen issues in hopes of re-instilling faith in the UN climate arena. Under such circumstances, however, it is already understood that a binding treaty is, in fact, out of the question.

But if the Cancun Summit fails to stop greenhouse emissions from climbing by 2020, the prospects for citizens of planet earth will remain bleak. What’s more, many warn that another failure like Copenhagen could bring the entire UN system into question.

Conference objectives have been set to include: giving the formal go-ahead to a so-called Green Fund as the main vehicle for providing up to $100 billion a year in aid to poor countries by 2020; agreeing on viable means of preserving rain forests; preparing for a hotter world and mulling adaption measures; and, finally, formalizing existing targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

But to do so, negotiators will have to overcome the perennial impasse between developed and developing countries, which has dogged meaningful discourse on the issue since Copenhagen.

Developing countries, for their part, are bitter about US attempts to coerce them into accepting the weak political deal agreed to by some countries last year. Some leaders of developing countries–such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, and Bolivian President Evo Morales–have accused rich nations of imperilling the poorest people in the world by adopting inequitable energy policies.

A recent Oxfam report, entitled “More than ever: climate talks that work for those that need them most“, supports this view, noting that 21,000 people had died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of 2010–more than twice the number for the whole of 2009.

The report’s author, Oxfam’s Tim Gore, wrote: “The human impacts of climate change in 2010 send a powerful reminder why progress in Cancun is more urgent than ever.”

It is therefore crucial that countries make informal pledges to cut or control emissions part of the formal negotiations scheduled to take place at Cancun. They should agree to live up to these pledges enough so that global warming is kept below 1.5°C. It is imperative that the Cancun talks pave the way for a comprehensive, fair and legally binding global deal within the foreseeable future.

Egyptian Environment Minister Maged George recently echoed this view while speaking to Al Masry Al Youm. “Egypt’s share of global greenhouse gases does not exceed 0.6 percent of the global total,” he said. “Yet we [the developing countries] stand to suffer the most from the effects of climate change–even though we were not the main cause of it.”

Originally published by here.

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