Key objectives of UN climate talks

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The Independent Online

The November 29-December 10 climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, is tasked with making solid progress towards a post-2012 climate treaty after the near-disaster of the December 2009 Copenhagen summit.

The talks are taking place under the banner of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), gathering 194 parties.

Here are its twin tracks:

ACTION BEYOND 2012

Under pressure to restore faith in the UN process, the conference will be urged to advance on:

- launching a new financial vehicle, unofficially dubbed the Green Fund, to help poor countries cope with the impact of climate change. It could be the main source for aid, promised in Copenhagen, that could reach 100 billion dollars a year by 2020.

- setting financial encouragement to tropical countries so that they preserve their forests rather than cut them down. Logging and land clearance have accounted for between 12 and 25 percent of global emissions annually over the past 15 years.

- encouraging the transfer of clean technology from rich countries to poor economies.

- agreeing ways to measure and monitor countries' actions, including emissions curbs.

However, the conference is unlikely to get embroiled in the biggest problem, of ratcheting up national pledges on carbon emissions. Nor is it likely to address the legal architecture for housing these and other promises.

Talks are also bedevilled about how to include the "Copenhagen Accord," controversially cobbled together by a couple of dozen countries in the desperate final hours of the 2009 summit.

FUTURE OF THE KYOTO PROTOCOL

The outlook seems grim for the UNFCCC's landmark achievement, the first international treaty to set down legally-binding targets for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

Kyoto set down commitments for industrialised economies that would reduce overall emissions of six categories of greenhouse gases by "at least" five percent by a 2008-2012 timeframe compared to 1990.

Negotiations will focus on a second round of Kyoto commitments beyond 2012, gathering all UNFCCC parties except the United States, which signed the accord in 1997 but in 2001 refused to ratify it.

The Protocol has been badly wounded by the absence of the US and massive overshoots in carbon emissions by Canada and Australia.

It has been further weakened by the rise of emerging giants China, India and Brazil to the ranks of major polluters. They have no binding emissions targets, as these apply only to industrialised countries, not developing economies.

Support for a second commitment period under Kyoto after 2012 is fading even within the European Union, which saved the pact after the US walkout in 2001.

Developing countries, though, like its compliance provisions and the way it shelters them from tougher obligations until they emerge from poverty. For them, securing a second commitment period is the quid pro quo for their support in the other track, especially emissions.

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