GOOD

COP16 Cancún Climate Talks: Everything You Need to Know

Expectations for the Cancún climate talks in were low. Thankfully, outcomes surpassed expectations.


The Cancún climate talks have wrapped up with some surprising optimism and positivity. At COP16, parties collectively agreed to put aside for awhile the thornier issues—like specific emissions reductions targets and the "common but differentiated responsibilities" of developing and developed nations—that have long caused utter stalemate in the UNFCCC. Delegates approved, with necessary consensus, a set of decisions that formally recognize emissions pledges, create a Green Climate Fund, and launch a process to reduce deforestation in the tropics.

I say "necessary consensus," but the Bolivian delegation actually never supported the measure. In fact, some are saying that the COP chair's willingness to push these decisions through without unanimous consensus is a sign that the UNFCCC body actually is agile enough to be productive.


The so-called Cancún Agreements are actually two interim agreements: one that extends the Kyoto Protocol, and another that takes basic elements of the much-maligned Copenhagen Accord, and imports them into the official UNFCCC body.

This surely comes across as something of a "win" for the U.S. delegation, which a year ago basically force fed the Copenhagen Accord down throats around the world.

That said, reactions around the world have been pretty upbeat, from leaders and advocates alike. Expectations, of course, for the U.N. climate talks in Cancun were low, which helps explains the near universally positive reaction.

Alex Stark, who has been tracking the negotiations for TckTckTck, gave this telling account of the mood in the room when the decisions were agreed upon:

It’s hard to explain how exciting it felt to be in that room. We may not be making the deal here that saves the planet, but in the world of UN climate negotiations, near-unanimous agreement between developing and developed countries, applause and even spontaneous cheering are really quite unprecedented. For the first time since the Copenhagen conference one year ago, I’m genuinely confident that this process can prove to the world that it can be successful.

\n

On Time's Ecocentric blog, Bryan Walsh pens a useful post breaking down five lessons we learned from Cancun. In short: multilateralism ain't dead; China is playing ball; Copenhagen's failures made Cancun's success possible; the focus is on forests; and, remember, the deal isn't all that great.

My bottom line takeaway is that Cancún proved that the UNFCCC could still be relevant, but they're going to need to achieve a heck of a lot more in South Africa at COP17 next year.

Enough from me. Here are some reactions from experts and advocates around the world:

Union of Concerned Scientists Director of Strategy and Policy Alden Meyer:

The outcome in Cancún wasn’t enough to save the climate, but it did restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made.

\n

Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs:

Negotiators have resuscitated the UN talks and put them on a road to recovery. This deal shows the UN negotiations can deliver. There is now hope for action to help the millions of poor people who are already struggling to survive the effects of climate change.

With lives on the line, we must now build on this progress. Long-term funding must be secured so the Climate Fund can start to deliver, helping vulnerable communities protect themselves for the climate impacts of today and tomorrow.

Gordon Shepherd, head of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative:

After Copenhagen governments came to Cancun bruised and facing public pressure to act on climate change. It was hoped that Cancun could establish a platform for progress, and now countries are leaving with a renewed sense of goodwill and some sense of purpose.

We need to see additional leadership from the European Union (EU) and other countries such as India and China on the legal form of an outcome. The EU and other countries need to also increase their mitigation commitments to close the gap between current emissions reduction pledges and what is required to reach their shared goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C.

The United States got off relatively easy in Cancun, failing to agree to robust reporting and review for its own actions. To build trust in the year ahead, the US should embark on a clear process to pull together its domestic efforts to reduce emissions into a transparent action plan that will put it on the road to a clean energy economy. The United States should then come to Durban ready to join the world in support of a legally binding agreement.

Jennifer Haverkamp, managing director of EDF's international climate program:

The conference pushed forward a modest, but important package of climate initiatives. The U.N. has now put its seal of approval on compensating countries for protecting their forests. And Mexico's skillful leadership here has helped to rebuild confidence in the UN process.

The overall outcome represents only a fraction of what's needed. Despite the best efforts by many countries, glaciers are still melting faster than this process is moving.

Nick Mabey, CEO of E3G:

This is a lifeline for the international climate talks. The Cancun package provides the green shoots which can grow into a global deal. Cancun was always going to be a staging post on the road to a final outcome. After the disappointment in Copenhagen, this year was about injecting political energy and reaching agreement on key mechanisms. On both counts Cancun has scored well.

This proves that all those who doubted the multilateral system were completely wrong. The UNFCCC is back at the heart of shaping the global response to climate change.

\n

Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director of the National Wildlife Federation:

Progress was made on a number of important issues, but it’s clear the Senate’s failure to pass clean energy legislation tied the hands of negotiators to come to a full global deal. Formally recognizing the Copenhagen reduction targets – including the U.S. 17 percent reductions by 2020 - still leaves the world woefully short of what needs to be done to tackle the climate crisis.

\n

BlueGreen Alliance executive director David Foster:

After two weeks of negotiations, a balanced path has been put forward, including progress on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, adaptation to climate change, technology transfer, the development of a green climate fund, and — most importantly — measuring, reporting and verification. In addition, the inclusion of just transition and decent work in the Shared Vision is a critical factor in a global climate agreement to ensure that this transition to a clean energy economy preserves and creates good jobs.

\n

Christoph Bals, political director at Germanwatch:

We have seen though that the consensus-based process within the UN alone will not be able to channel the necessary dynamic in international climate politics with a US administration more or less incapable of action. Further dynamics have to be reached through additional frontrunner coalitions among countries, communities and businesses. Acting, negotiating and building coalitions is the essential triptych.

\n

Finally, if you would like even more nuance, check out the OneClimate interview with Antonio Hill of Oxfam, an international climate policy expert whose perspective I very much trust and admire:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WiERQt3PTU

Photo by Alex Stark for Adopt a Negotiator

Articles
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health