Leading article: Better than nothing, but not much

Share
Related Topics

The best that can be said of the United Nations climate change summit in Cancun is that it could have been worse. The Mexican hosts managed to produce a document that all delegates were able to sign up to. It was not the diplomatic "car crash" that our own Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, warned of as the summit was nearing its conclusion.

The establishment of a Green Climate Fund to raise $100bn a year by 2020 to assist poorer nations with low-carbon development is good news. There is an outline for funding developing countries to reduce deforestation, which is responsible for 20 per cent of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions. And there was agreement on an international monitoring and verification system for emissions cuts, brokered by the impressive Indian environment minister.

But none of this can disguise the fact that there is nothing substantive in the agreement on reining in greenhouse gas emissions by either high-income or developing nations. There are no legally binding emissions cuts for any nation.

And the future of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 – the one international agreement that contains any legally binding emissions cuts – remains unclear. The Russians, Canadians and Japanese who want it to be scrapped were somehow able to sign up to the same text as the developing nations who are adamant that it ought to be retained. This has been hailed as a triumph but, in truth, it is likely to be merely a battle postponed.

The memorandum states that countries should "take urgent action" to hold the increase in global temperatures to below 2C. But even the voluntary emission reduction targets, under the UN's scientific analysis, would be insufficient to achieve this. The Cancun agreement says that world CO2 emissions must soon peak. But how? The delegates wish the ends, but will not agree on the means.

A weak agreement is better than no agreement. The UN process of brokering a global deal remains just about alive. But in a warming world, the Cancun memorandum is only the coldest of comforts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Ben Chu
David Cameron leaves Number 10 to speak at Parliament  

Tunisia attack: To prevent more bloodshed we must accept that containment has not worked

Patrick Cockburn
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'