What to expect from the Cancun climate change conference

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Temps de lecture : 3 minutes  

The next negotiation session will take place in Cancun from November 29 to December 10, 2010.

The Copenhagen conference mobilised more people than ever before, including Heads of State. The second week was very difficult with limited civil society participation but it changed the way the issue was considered. Indeed, climate change became an issue for a large number of people all over the world who will suffer from its effects and was no longer seen as a field which interested only a few « specialists ».

The conference at the end of 2009 only took note of the Copenhagen Agreement. This reflected the lack of unanimity on the text which left out several elements and more particularly, no figures were set for industrialised countries’ greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Since then, 139 countries have officially confirmed their backing of the Copenhagen Agreement. These countries are the biggest current and future CO2 emitters. They are thus acknowledging some of the Copenhagen Agreement’s advances such as the announced funds (30 billion USD over 3 years in Option funds, 100 billion USD/ year starting in 2020), supporting vulnerable countries as regards adaptation as a priority and the importance of forests (REDD+).

Since Copenhagen, negotiation sessions have helped take several issues up to a point where decisions can be made in Cancun. But these sectoral advances could come up against certain states’ will to consider the negotiation package as an indivisible unit (a balanced package). They could indeed refuse to move forward until decisions have been made about issues such as the next stage of the Kyoto Protocol or industrialised countries’ commitments in terms of figures. This would be a risk for the process that can be illustrated by the following two examples:

A negotiation text on forests was already very advanced in Copenhagen and it contained real progress towards reaching a consensus : a clear description of the principles that should guide the action, confirmation of a wider vision of forest activities including preservation and increasing forest carbon stocks (REDD+ vision, that is to say almost all the forests within the intertropical belt which represent half the world’s forests), respecting forest populations and taking biodiversity into account. To not have recorded this « progress » in the common understanding of REDD+ in Copenhagen meant it ran the risk of being challenged again. That is exactly what happened in 2010 when two countries suggested amendments that were moreover not accepted by the other 190 parties involved in the negotiation: a waste of time and energy.

As for funding for the fight against climate change, the work done in 2010 produced a near consensus to create the green fund proposed in the Copenhagen Agreement, in Cancun. All the parties were flexible and it appears possible that very operational works on the green fund’s means of functioning, like composing its « balanced » north-south governance authorities, can begin. The amount of funds allocated to this green fund will be close to the amount of current public grants for development (100 billion USD). A strategic choice has to be made about how the money will be allocated: will it be a large centralised bank for climate change that will probably get off to a slow start and marginalise “small parties”? Or will it be a flexible fund that can create strong synergy with the main current fundraisers for climate projects: national banks in Southern countries, the private sector and bilateral financial backers? The negotiation process can only benefit from these complex operational works being launched in Cancun.These two sectoral decisions – forests and finance – are possible in Cancun. Postponing them on the grounds that one needs a « balanced package or nothing », would not favour poor countries, especially in Africa, who urgently need to set up new funding. On the contrary, partly officially decided advances in Cancun will be positive messages for all those who are already taking action and funding “climate and development” projects:

– For private companies that are already funding forest projects, as forerunners of a future REDD+ mechanism. The Air France- WWF-GoodPlanet project in Madagascar is such an example.

– For a few countries like Indonesia and Mexico which have unilaterally decided to implement a climate action plan with quantified objectives. AFD has thus decided to support these pioneer national climate strategies with large budgetary funds.

– For elected local authority representatives and NGOs that are already involved in taking action. The decisions taken in Cancun will reinforce their demands for increased public and carbon market funding to take their actions further. The SKG Sangha-ActionCarbone-AFD project in India is such an example.

An approach therefore needs to be devised to make climate negotiations advance within the UN, by accepting to move forward with partial decisions. They would materialise the partly accomplished progress (ratchet effect) in the construction of a coherent and balanced whole (the global agreement) to meet the challenge posed by climate change. Humanity will only be able to respond to this challenge collectively.

What to expect from the Cancun climate change conference br Denis Loyer de l’Agence Française de Développement

Text courtesy of the author

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