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Saturday, January 01, 2011

"Why Cancun Trumped Copenhagen"

Robert Stavins seems happy with the progress of the recent climate talks in Cancun:

Why Cancun Trumped Copenhagen, by Robert Stavins: ...After the modest results of the climate change talks in Copenhagen a little more than a year ago, expectations were low for the follow-up negotiations in Cancun last month. ...
But a funny thing happened on the way to that much-anticipated failure: During two intense weeks of discussions..., the world’s governments quietly achieved consensus on a set of substantive steps forward. And equally important, the participants showed encouraging signs of learning to navigate through the unproductive squabbling between developed and developing countries that derailed the Copenhagen talks.
The tangible advances were noteworthy: The Cancun Agreements set emissions mitigation targets for some 80 countries, including all the major economies. That means that the world’s largest emitters, among them China, the United States, the European Union, India, and Brazil, have now signed up for targets and actions to reduce emissions by 2020.
The participating countries also agreed – for the first time in an official United Nations accord – to keep temperature increases below a global average of 2 degrees Celsius. ... The Cancun Agreements on their own are clearly not sufficient to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, but they are a valuable step forward...
The progress was as much about changing the mindset of how to tackle climate disruption. ... That they met this challenge owes in good measure to ... the tremendous skill of Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa in presiding over the talks.
For example, at a critical moment she took note of objections from Bolivia and a few other leftist states, and then ruled that the support of the 193 other countries meant that consensus had been achieved and the Cancun Agreements had been adopted. She pointed out that “consensus does not mean unanimity.” Compare that with Copenhagen, where the Danish prime minister allowed objections by five small countries to derail the talks.
Mexico’s adept leadership also made sure smaller countries were able to contribute fully..., avoiding the sense of exclusivity that alienated some parties in Copenhagen. ...
It’s also vital to note that China and the United States set a civil, productive tone, in contrast to the Copenhagen finger-pointing. From the sidelines in Cancun, I can vouch for the tremendous increase in openness of members of the Chinese delegation.
The acceptance of the Cancun Agreements suggests that the international community may now recognize that incremental steps in the right direction are better than acrimonious debates over unachievable targets.

With Republicans taking control of the House, I will be pleasantly surprised if we make any progress on this issue domestically (I can imagine the GOP perhaps buying into tax cuts designed to encourage investment into research in this area, but not much else).

    Posted by on Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 10:42 AM in Economics, Environment, Policy | Permalink  Comments (20)


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