The outcome of the Cancun climate conference ( COP 16/ CMP 6)
December 2010’s Cancun climate conference faced many challenges. Not least of these was the need to re-establish the legitimacy of the multilateral negotiations process under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), following the widely-criticised outcome of last year’s 2009 climate conference, which culminated in the Copenhagen Accord (see our Copenhagen Accord Update for details).
This year’s Cancun negotiations initially struggled to carve out a useful mandate for themselves. Their outcome was pre-determined: No legally binding global agreement would be entered into at Cancun to tackle the problem of global climate change at this stage. Until the final hours of the Conference, it remained unclear whether the negotiations would result even in a baby step towards a new global agreement, and if so, what such a step would entail.
We have set out below an overview of the outcomes of the Cancun conference, and will also be running a webinar on Wednesday, 9.30GMT, please see the invitation for joining instructions. Our ‘Cancun - Understanding the process’ guide explains how the climate negotiations are structured and the role of the different ad-hoc working groups (AWGs) which are working towards establishing a more comprehensive outcome, the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA .
The key results of the Cancun conference were:
- An agreement to peak emissions and an overall 2 degrees Celsius target for temperature rise
- Formalising, to a certain degree, details of what countries have promised to do to mitigate climate change within the UN architecture
- Agreeing the outline of a system to be able to measure, report and verify how countries are living up to their promises to take action on emissions
- Establishing a Green Climate Fund
- Agreeing to slow, halt and reverse destruction of forests ( REDD+ ) and agreeing the rules for delivering REDD+ and for monitoring progress
- Setting up the mechanisms to help developing countries access low carbon technology, and adapt to climate change
- Some progress in respect of the existing market mechanisms, CDM and JI , and in respect of the inclusion of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the CDM.
This is broadly as much as was expected to result from the Cancun negotiations, if not a little more. It falls substantially short of a global agreement that will prevent dangerous climate change, with initial estimates indicating that the existing emission targets and actions proposed will lead to a world with as much as 5 degrees Celsius of global warming. This is predicted to have catastrophic consequences.
Praise has been heaped on the Mexican Presidency of the negotiations for the way in which they managed the process during 2010. However, the “Cancun agreement” has met a mixed reaction. UK Ministers have said:
“We’ve worked hard to bring countries together and the expectations have been exceeded. A global deal on climate change is now back on track.”
“Cancun will send a strong signal of confidence to business investing billions in the new global green economy. British companies are poised to reap the huge advantage of being the first movers in this rapidly expanding market. We will be working in partnership with the private sector to drive home that opportunity.”
Friends of the Earth have said:
“The world needed strong and determined action to tackle climate change in Cancun - the outcome is a weak and ineffective agreement but at least it gives us a small and fragile lifeline.”
One negotiator has referred to the talks as a “fiasco grande”.
As ever with the international negotiations, given the diversity of national approaches and priorities, it is impossible to achieve a result that is acceptable to all parties.
Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA)
This AWG has been working on a broader international agreement to more fully implement the UNFCCC.
The Decision relating to the outcome of the work of the AWG-LCA begins by stating that not all aspects of the work of the AWG-LCA are concluded, and that nothing shall prejudge prospects for, or the content of, a legally-binding outcome in the future. In other words, the negotiations will continue in their pursuit of securing a global climate deal, and a series of possible outcomes remain on the table.
A shared vision for long-term action
The Parties have “recognised” that:
- Global warming is unequivocal and that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in human-induced greenhouse gas concentrations
- Deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required according to science, with a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
- There is a need to consider strengthening the long-term global goal including in relation to a global average temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This reflects the Copenhagen Accord, which represented the world’s first political consensus around the need to aim for at least a “2 degrees” goal. However, even this remains contentious. Many feel that it is not ambitious enough. Importantly therefore it was decided at Cancun to periodically review the adequacy of the long-term global goal based on best available scientific knowledge. The first review should start in 2013 and should be concluded by 2015.
The Parties agreed at Cancun that work on adaptation is urgently required to enable and support actions aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience in developing countries which will suffer the effects of climate change. This is particularly the case given the weakness of current emissions reduction targets and actions on the table (see below).
The Cancun Adaptation Framework was therefore established. Parties will undertake a number of actions to help developing countries to be better prepared, including:
- Planning, prioritising and implementing adaptation actions
- Vulnerability and adaptation assessments
- Strengthening institutional capacities
- Building resilience of socio-economic and ecological systems, including through economic diversification and sustainable management of natural resources
- An Adaptation Committee will be established.
Setting a more ambitious and comprehensive framework for adaptation has been a key objective of many parties. Adaptation has traditionally been seen as the preserve of the public sector, and adaptation finance through the private sector has not been thought of as a likely solution. The adaptation framework appears to open up the possibility of interaction with the private sector, which could be envisaged to be a provider of adaptation services and also to be involved with an insurance mechanism that may be set up.
Nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions by developed countries
The need for deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries is emphasised in the Cancun outcome.
The Decision takes note of targets to be implemented by developed countries as communicated by them and contained in an UN “informational” (INF) document. This is expected to include the targets submitted by Parties pursuant to the Copenhagen Accord. In an attempt to give such targets further legitimacy, communications included in the INF document are considered formal “communications” under the UNFCCC.
This changes little from the situation reached after Copenhagen. Developed countries will have to significantly improve their emission reduction targets in order for the threat of dangerous climate change to be overcome. However, some developed countries are not at this stage prepared to do significantly more than advanced developing countries like China and India. This is partly on the basis that developed country emissions will represent only 25% of future emissions, despite representing the majority of historical emissions. Developing countries are reluctant to commit to anything that will restrain their ability to develop economically and perceive moves by developed counties to restrain developing counties’ emissions as unfair and to contradict the provisions of the UNFCCC.
Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country Parties
It was agreed that developing countries will take nationally appropriate mitigation actions. These actions are set in the context of sustainable development, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building (see below). These actions are aimed at achieving a deviation in emissions relative to business as usual emissions in 2020.
The parties ”take note of” the nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) to be implemented by non-Annex I Parties as communicated and contained in another INF document. Again, these NAMAs are likely to be those submitted pursuant to the Copenhagen Accord, as updated where Parties have set out further potential actions during the course of 2010. Developing countries are invited to voluntarily inform the Conference of the Parties of their intention to implement NAMAs to the UNFCCC secretariat.
The Secretariat will organise workshops, to understand the diversity of mitigation actions submitted, underlying assumptions, and any support needed for implementation of these NAMAs.
Developed country Parties are required to provide enhanced financial, technological and capacity-building support for the preparation and implementation of NAMAs and for enhanced reporting by these Parties.
Other key features of the agreement are that:
- A registry will be set up to record NAMAs seeking international support and to facilitate matching of finance, technology and capacity-building support to these NAMAs
- Developing country Parties are invited to submit information on NAMAs for which they are seeking support, along with estimated costs and emission reductions, and the anticipated time frame for implementation
- Developed country Parties are invited to submit information on support available and provided for NAMAs.
Measurement, reporting and verification
In relation to measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of developing country mitigation responses:
- Internationally supported mitigation actions will be measured, reported and verified domestically and will be subject to international measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines to be developed under the UNFCC
- Domestically supported mitigation actions will be measured, reported and verified domestically in accordance with general guidelines to be developed under the UNFCC
- A process for international consultations and analysis (ICA) will be conducted, in the aim of increasing transparency of mitigation actions and their effects
- Developing countries are encouraged to develop low-carbon development strategies or plans in the context of sustainable development.
MRV and ICA have been contentious issues for some time, with developed countries keen to be able to review and assess the implementation of actions by developing countries, and developing countries resisting outside interference with their internal affairs. It is hoped that some of the deadlock has been unlocked by the framework described above, but the implementation of this framework is likely to remain contentious and problematic in the future.
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+)
To the relief of many, a REDD+ framework was agreed at Cancun. Further commentary on REDD+ will be available shortly.
New market mechanisms
International Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation are the existing “market mechanisms” under the Kyoto Protocol pursuant to which emissions can be traded on the international carbon markets and developed country emissions can be “offset” by emissions reductions in developing countries. See our guide to international mechanisms and key considerations for more information.
The establishment of new, larger-scale “market mechanisms” will be considered next year at “COP17” (next year in December). See our guide on market mechanisms for more information on new market mechanisms.
Such mechanisms are to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote, mitigation actions, taking into account the following:
- Ensuring voluntary participation of Parties
- Complementing other means of support for NAMAs
- Stimulating mitigation across broad segments of the economy
- Safeguarding environmental integrity
- Ensuring a net decrease and/or avoidance of global greenhouse gas emissions
- Assisting developed country Parties to meet part of their mitigation targets, while ensuring that the use of such mechanism or mechanisms is supplemental to domestic mitigation efforts
- Ensuring good governance and robust market functioning and regulation.
Parties and accredited observer organisations are invited to make submissions in respect of such mechanisms to the UNFCCC secretariat by 21 February 2011. This means that organisations such as the International Emissions Trading Association and the Carbon Markets & Investors Association have little time to submit updated views on what is a very complex area.
Importantly however the Parties undertake to maintain and build upon existing mechanisms, including those established under the Kyoto Protocol.
As the use of market mechanisms is controversial for some countries, Parties will also consider the establishment, at COP17, of one or more non-market-based mechanisms to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote, mitigation actions. These could include carbon taxes, the use of other policies, levies on bunker fuels, etc.
The statement in relation to the Kyoto Protocol market mechanisms gives some hope to those who have heavily invested in the existing market mechanisms. This is significant, as securing confidence for existing market participants will be key to facilitating private investment in climate change in the future (see further below). However, this commitment is relatively weak and falls below what many were hoping for in respect of a signal for market certainty in relation to the continuation of the CDM (see below).
The Parties took note of the fast-start finance agreed last year in Copenhagen of US$ 30 billion for the period 2010 to 2012.
The Parties also decided that scaled-up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding will be provided to developing country Parties. They “recognised” that developed country Parties commit, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, to a goal of mobilising jointly US$100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This was another outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations.
Green Climate Fund
One important issue that has received some further clarity at Cancun is the creation of a global fund for tackling climate change.
A Green Climate Fund will be established which will be accountable to and function under the guidance of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the UNFCCC. The Fund will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries. The Fund will be governed by a board of 24 members and a trustee which will be accountable to the Green Climate Fund Board. The World Bank will serve as the interim trustee of the Fund.
In the face of criticism of the delivery of “fast-start” finance, the Parties are invited to submit information to the UNFCCC secretariat on such fast-start finance by May 2011, 2012 and 2013. This should include ways in which developing countries access this finance. This may address a central criticism of many developing countries, namely that the “fast start” finance doesn't seem to be trickling through and/or that developed countries are using “creative accounting” in order to achieve their commitments.
Importantly for many developed country Parties, it is agreed that funds provided to developing country Parties may come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including “alternative sources”. This is a departure from the view of many developing countries that the US$100 billion should be provided by way of grants.
Whilst the establishment of a Fund is an important milestone, at the moment it remains somewhat of an empty vessel. Significant further work will be required in order for it to meet the challenges and expectations that it faces.
Technology development and transfer
The transfer of technology to developing countries is another key aspect of responding to climate change. Progress in this regard was keenly anticipated before Cancun. A “Technology Mechanism” has been established which will be under the guidance of and accountable to the CoP. The Mechanism will be consist of:
- Technology Executive Committee (TEC)
- A Climate Technology Centre and Network (TCN).
The Technology Executive Committee will:
- Provide an overview of technological needs and analysis of policy and technical issues related to the development and transfer of technology for mitigation and adaptation
- Consider and recommend actions to promote technology development and transfer in order to accelerate action on mitigation and adaptation
- Recommend guidance on policies and programme priorities related to technology development and transfer with special consideration given to the least developed country Parties
- Promote and facilitate collaboration on the development and transfer of technology for mitigation
- Recommend actions to address the barriers to technology development and transfer
- Seek cooperation with relevant international technology initiatives, stakeholders and organisations
- Catalyse the development and use of technology road maps or action plans at international, regional and national levels.
To do so it will seek input from intergovernmental and international organisations and the private sector and may seek input from civil society in undertaking its work. It may also invite advisors drawn from relevant intergovernmental and international organisations as well as the private sector and civil society to participate in its meetings as expert advisors on specific issues as they arise.
The Climate Technology Centre will facilitate a network of national, regional, sectoral and international technology networks, organisations and initiatives with a view to ramping up, stimulating and encouraging the growth of technology transfer.
There is likely to be concern about the extent to which the TEC seeks to “take control” over technology disbursement, and the extent to which that is likely to be useful and appropriate. Some had considered that the TEC might be best formed as a body that was comprised entirely of government officials, with a requirement to draw heavily on industry expertise. The proposed framework appears to be able to replicate that model, but the extent to which the views and knowledge of the private sector is taken account of may be essential to the degree of success achieved by the Mechanism.
Extension of the AWG-LCA
The Parties decided to extend the AWG-LCA for one year.
Last year we saw substantial amounts of reversing away from positions agreed at Copenhagen. This caused significant difficulties in moving forward during the course of 2010. This problem was significantly exaggerated by questions over the legitimacy of the Copenhagen Accord (see above).
Given the outcome of the AWG-LCA, which has been to agree a “lowest common denominator” framework for its future activities, it remains to be seen whether Parties will be in the mood for moving on in 2011, or whether the vagaries of the Cancun outcome will allow old wounds to be reopened, hindering progress. There will be ample opportunity for this to happen, with an extensive list of issues having be shuffled off to other bodies, as well as the AWG-LCA itself, for further elaboration.
Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP)
The AWG-KP’s mandate is to negotiate a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The first commitment period ends in 2012.
The Parties agreed that the work of the AWG-KP will continue and that its results will be adopted as early as possible and in time to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods.
The parties also agreed to take note of targets which will be set out in an “INF” document (see above). Developed countries are urged to raise the level of ambition of proposed emission reductions.
Some progress was made in that a “base year” for a second commitment period was agreed to be 1990, though in addition, a reference year may be used by a Party on an optional basis for its own purposes to express its targets.
Further, the AWG-KP Decision confirmed that emissions trading and the project-based mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol will continue to be available to developed countries as a means to meet their quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives. However, this does little to quell fears of the carbon markets that their fate has been inextricably linked by some to the negotiation of a second commitment period.
Land use, land-use change and forestry
A separate decision has been entered into with respect of reducing emissions and enhancing removals in relation to land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities.
CCS in the CDM
In another separate Decision, it was determined that CCS will be eligible as a project activity under the CDM, provided that a host of issues are addressed and resolved in a satisfactory manner. The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) is requested to elaborate modalities and procedures for the inclusion of CCS as project activities under the CDM, with a view to recommending a decision next year at negotiations in Durban.
CDM and JI
Both the CDM and JI were subject to separate decisions. Further commentary will be available on our blog shortly.
The fate of Kyoto Protocol continues to hang in the balance, with several developed countries seeking to move away from it, whereas developing countries trend to insist on its continuance. This significant issue has not been resolved at Cancun and threatens to loom over future negotiations.
Despite these uncertainties, several issues stand out:
- The Cancun outcome received heartfelt and emotional acceptance at the Cancun closing plenary, in contrast to the Copenhagen Accord
- Bolivia, a dissenting voice, was not allowed to stand in the way of progress
- The nature of multilateralism seems secure.