Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mexican Miracle: The Cancún Climate Compact


What a difference a few hours can make. This morning I was sitting in the Moon Palace next to Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones listening to Alden Meyer of Union of Concerned Scientists downplay expectations of any success at the Climate Summit. We all expected that the real hard work of the night would only just begin around midnight, and that endless haggling would end in stalemate, or maybe a few crumbs falling from the table.

At risk was the UN’s credibility as a negotiating venue. Putting a failure in Cancun back to back with the failure in Copenhagen would certainly raise many brows about the UN’s ability to broker a multilateral deal over such a difficult subject.

Sitting there listening to Meyer, I finished my blog post begun the day before and pushed the send button. I had condemned the US for its intransigence, obstructionism, weak-kneed wishywashyness and half-hearted pledges. Since then, I'd watched in awe as the US negotiator, Todd Stern, was whoopingly cheered by the entire assembly. He had just agreed to a text of the final 37-page document that reads, in part:

Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWGLCA)

The Conference of the Parties...

Recognising that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversile threat to human societies and the planet...

1. Affirms that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and that all Parties share a vision for long-term cooperative action in order to achieve the objective of the Convention ... through the achievement of a common goal, on the basis of equity and in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities....

4. Further recognizes that 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 temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.... Also recognizes the need to ... consider strengthening the long-term global goal on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge ... to a global average temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius....

6. Also agrees that Parties should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible....

12. Affirms that enhanced action on adaptation should be undertaken in accordance with the Convention; follow a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems; and be based on and guided by the best available science, and, as appropriate, traditional and indigenous knowledge; with a view to integrating into relevant social, economic, and environmental policies and actions....

III/ Acknowledging that the largest share of historical global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries and that, owing to this historical responsibility, developed country Parties must take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof,

37. Urges developed country Parties to increase the ambition of their economy-wide emission reduction targets, with a view to reducing their aggregate anthropogenic emissions....

40. Decides ... to enhance reporting in the national communications of Parties ... as follows:

(a) Developed countries should submit annual greenhouse gas inventories and inventory reports and biennial reports ... including ... actions to achieve their economy-wide emissions targets and emissions reductions achieved, projected emissions and on the provision of financial, technology, and capacity-building support to developing country Parties....

45. Decides that developed countries should develop low-carbon development strategies or plans....

48. Agrees that developing country Parties will take nationally appropriate mitigation actions in the context of sustainable development, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building, aimed at achieving a deviation in emissions relative to ‘business as usual’ emissions in 2020....

65. Encourages developing countries to develop low-carbon development strategies or plans in the context of sustainable development....

Those excerpts only go as far as page 12, leaving 2/3 of the document to go, but you get the idea. The next section is on the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, with safeguards for land tenure, indigenous peoples, etc.

Then comes a section on using markets to speed up the process, going for the so-called “low-hanging fruit,” while safeguarding ecosystem integrity and fair and equitable distribution of profits.

In particular, the text underscores the economic and social consequences of responses to climate change, urging the Parties to take note of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to avoid arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade.

The provision on fast-start financing commits $30 billion dollars for the period of 2010-2012 with a balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation, putting priority on the most vulnerable, such as small island developing states and Africa.

The provision on long-term financing commits to raise $100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries, to flow through a “Green Climate Fund.” The structure of the fund is set out in fine detail, including governance, voting and accountability. The board has 15 members from developed countries and 25 from developing. The World Bank is appointed to serve as Trustee for the first 3 years.

All that takes the document to the halfway point.  Then there are the Technology Mechanism; the Climate Technology Centre and Network; the Expert Group on Technology Transfer; a review process that assesses the continuing adequacy of efforts to forestall catastrophic changes, beginning in 2013, full scope to be defined next year (one has to leave something for COP17 in Durban); guidance and safeguards for REDD, insuring stakeholder inclusion and respect for rights, especially regarding indigenous peoples and local communities, and that no moneys will be spent “for conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivise the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits;” tasking of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to assess progress and the adequacy of these efforts towards preventing climate change, measuring sources and sinks, and verifying actions claimed by parties, ensuring complete transparency.

To get a sense of this whole breakthrough as it was unfolding, one need only review the tweet-o-sphere archive:
10:30 pm

COP16: Presidency distributes draft of negotiations The document gathers contributions made by all working groups http://tinyurl.com/36z67hz

AlexMStark: So: lots of vigorous support from every side, fingers crossed that Bolivia, Cuba et al won't block... going to be a long night!

OneClimate: Bangladesh: Text doesn't reflect everything we want but for the sake of the process, we feel this is a good outcome

OneClimate: Bangladesh: most vulnerable country in the world: not a qu of development for us, but of survival, and we want to move fwd

11:00

kate_sheppard: Todd Stern [USA lead delegate]: "Think this text does provide the necessary balance to do that and provide the way forward."

newscientist: US gets whooping from the floor - mad change from 3 years ago when they were booed and told to get out

alexmstark: Who could've anticipated cheers at the UNFCCC??

kate_sheppard: Stern says they should approve package, "put the world on a more hopeful path."

OneClimate: UAE: we run a great risk if we allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Substantive progress on critical issues at cop16

CYDcancun: UAE pulls the "enemy of the good" card... in a good way.
11:30

enviromedia: "This deal is not ideal, but it works." Shocking display of unity among developed and developing countries @COP16 climate Praise for Mexico

OneClimate: Tajikistan: mexico has helped to restore trust in UN process and helped small countries participate.

AndrwLight: I predict no more negotiation. Ends with near unanimous agreement around Mexican compromise

iklimkarbon: China is talking now, "We are basically satisfied"

kate_sheppard: Japan!

AlexMStark: incredible energy here at the UNFCCC, fingers crossed that it carries us through the evening

AlexMStark: Algeria: "Africa has spoken w/one voice"  "would like to support the text"

OneClimate: India: god has been very close to Mexico. I come from country that has more godesses than gods, "a goddess present too in Madam President"

OneClimate: India: let us very soon bring a halt to this process and say that we do have an agreemeing in Cancun

lmdo: Yes, let's bring a half to this process (for a bit) and say that we have an agreement in Cancun! http://bit.ly/fGuhDa

kate_sheppard: Ramesh of India: "You have resorted the confidence of the international community in multilateralism and the multilateral process."

AlexMStark: Colombia: "we ask that the Cancun package be adopted w/o further ado"

climatebrad: Africa, with its 1 billion people, has spoken with one unique voice: Africa would like to support the text that has been submitted

kate_sheppard: Ecuador: "We understand the enthusiasm of the delegations here, but we believe we must demand a lot more for ourselves."

enviromedia: Talking points repeated by all at COP16: 1.Thanks to Mexico. 2.This agreement isn't perfect. 3.Multilateralism, planet at stake.

11:45

kate_sheppard: Kuwait is the last speaker for this plenary.

andrea_arzaba: Kuwait: Yes Cancun CAN, Yes WOMEN CAN

climatebrad: All I can say, is if global warming is a conspiracy, it's a really weird one. Kuwait, China, US, Maldives, Ecuador...

kate_sheppard: Informal plenary over. Espinosa directs working groups to meet immediately, briefly.

OneClimate: the first time that the word 'Party' has ever felt apt in my time covering unfccc talks. What a lot of love.

tcktcktck: "Watershed in the climate process" "We are on the path that can only lead to success"

12:00 midnight

gaytanariza: Bolivia: "No existe consenso porque nosotros no estamos de acuerdo. Queremos discutir algunos temas del documento"

rjtklein: Once Bolivia is done grandstanding, world will thank Mexico for restoring trust in multilateral negotiations in the UN.

Revkin: At cop16 plenary, why didn't someone do for Bolivia what Kevin Conrad of PNG did for US in 2007 ("Step aside..."): http://j.mp/stepaside

lmdo: @Revkin Ha, possibly because Bolivia isn't "hated" in the same way America is. But, fair point.

CYJ_COP:【ブログ更新しました!】 怒涛のCOP後半戦 http://t.co/t4ca1Ak 
glennhurowitz: Quote of the night from East Timor: "This is almost a good document."

1:00

JeremyLeggett: So exciting to wake up and read the positive Twitter feed from Cancun. I surely wasn't expecting this. Hope lives?

CYDcancun: Opening of AWG-LCA plenary yields long standing ovation. Bolivia first to speak, crowd responds with knowing chuckles!?

AlexMStark: Margaret gave Bolivia the floor and there weas audible booing!

AlexMStark: must say, it's hard to take Bolivia's argument about Africa/AOSIS seriously when they've already endorsed this text...

CYDcancun: Bolivia holding the hard line, demanding 1.5, payment of climate debt, world bank exlusion.

jschmidtnrdc: Bolivia going point by point through the draft text...UN equivalent of the filibuster

1:30

AlexMStark: Bolivia just will not stop talking. worries about whether they'll be able to block the entire show tonight

abranches: Bolivia is speaking with no time limit as a compensation for the fact it will not be granted veto power.

tcktcktck: Bolivia no acepta el documento

AlexMStark: Guatemala: "when are we going to stop talking and start taking decisions?"

CYDcancun: Columbia: Consensus doesn't mean giving the right of veto to one country [applause]

climateinstitut: Bolivia is threatening to derail Cancun climate deal.

anjalih: Gabon: This text isn't perfect, but it offers a number of favorable prospects for the future

climatebrad: Gabon: We cannot go to extremes. Everyone understand this is affecting Africa. (Applause)

eco_singapore: Guatemala: I wonder when we are going to stop talking and start acting.

1:45

climatebrad: LCA chair: "I sense an overwhelming will in the room to forward the document. So decided."

tcktcktck: Brasil: acepta el documento!!

AlexMStark: LCA text accepted to cheers and applause!!!! On to final plenary.

AlexMStark: Bolivia hasn't quite given up, wants objection stated for the record

tcktcktck: Bolivia: no esta de acuerdo con documento y no hay concenso para su adopción, anotan objeción.

CYJ_COP: ボリビアが反対しているが、議長がコンセンサスと判断。LCAが終わりました。
kate_sheppard: LCA closed ... now, on to the big show.

2:00

AlexMStark: cheers to the Swiss delegation for the snacks! Trackers appreciate it

coralmisaki: Mexican presser skedded for 6 a.m. CST. Final passage of U.N. climate between now and then.

kate_sheppard: Parties (ex. Bolivia) are really, really excited that the process is functioning, even if they're not as excited about the content.

2:45

AlexMStark: COP/CMP final plenaries open to applause UNFCCC

OneClimate: President: we will adopt historic decisions, process WILL be simple and straightforward

kate_sheppard: Espinosa opening final portion of the meeting, where they will decide on the two texts (Kyoto track and LCA)

3:00

AlexMStark: Bolivia has taken the floor in CMP plenary, doesn't accept KP text and says it's "a step backwards"

OneClimate: or in other words... RT @climatebrad: Bolivia is giving the finger to Mexico.

peaksurfer: Bolivia says no consensus (w/o it). COP16 going backwards; pledge and review no subst for Kyoto hard targets.

BoliviaUN: we wish to make headway but can't accept a document without the opportunity to negotiate on that document.

peaksurfer: Bolivia's final card: procedural irregularities.

AlexMStark: Bolivia: "there is no consensus for the approval of this decision"

kate_sheppard: Espinosa: "We've been spending literally years on these.

peaksurfer: Espinosa: Dear Bolivia, with due respect, we have all been spending years, not days or weeks, considering this document.
peaksurfer: COP16 APPROVED!

kate_sheppard: Espinosa: These will be listed as Cancun Agreement, "a new era in international cooperation on climate change."

peaksurfer: Applause continues

kate_sheppard: Solon arguing against adoption of the KP over their objection. "Today it is Bolivia, tomorrow it could be any other country.

esperanzagarcia: Bolivia keeping the translator busy. 3 AM.

climatebrad: COP16 president: "I do note your position, and if there is no other opinion, this text is approved." Roar of applause.

DougLain: I think I like twitter now.

artnotpolicy: the rule of consensus does not mean unanimity nor one delegation being able to impose a veto - another round of applause

nataliebrook: Espinosa: Bolivia cannot act to veto an agreement that has been achieved with so much effort and respect

NastasyaTay: Espinosa: Consensus does not mean unanimity. One party does not have the right to veto a decision everyone has worked hard to reach.

peaksurfer: applause resumes

kate_sheppard: Espinosa: "The decision of the conference has been duly adopted."

NastasyaTay: Espinosa suspends the discussion around the Kyoto Protocol and opens the official COP16 (the bit involving the bigger plan).

OneClimate: RT @BoliviaUN: we came to Cancun with proposals by an historic Peoples conference @oneclimate covered. None adopted http://bit.ly/9ENN4T

peaksurfer: @OneClimate Actually there is a fair amount of the Cochabamba Declaration buried in the 37 page doc adopted. Read it& see if U agree.

nataliebrook: Bolivia requesting procedure for consensus to be followed

BoliviaUN: this is the democratic right we're requesting.. we request you to respect the formal mechanisms for agreements of the UN

OneClimate: USA wading into the argument between @BoliviaUN and Mexican Presidency at COP16 http://bit.ly/eTsaWE

CYDcancunCOP16: US says UNFCCC has never formally adopted decision-making rules, and "general agreement" is what they've been working under anyway?

OneClimate: LIVE: showdown between Bolivia and... well, pretty much the rest of the world at the moment

peaksurfer: T Stern gives lesson on consensus? Whodathunk.

kate_sheppard: Espinosa to Bolivia: "ask you to kindly not delay the work of the parties."

artnotpolicy: Pres: Bolivia doors been open to every meeting, i am unhappy members of ur delgation decided to exclude uselves

OneClimate: Pres Espinosa: Bolivia, sorry, but adopted

peaksurfer: goooaaaalllllll!

OneClimate: Mega drama in Cancun - deal pushed through despite Bolivia's very very vocal objections

peaksurfer: Calderon steps to podium

wwwfoecouk: Outcome of cancun climate talks weak and ineffective, but a small and fragile lifeline

wwf_media: Cancun negotiators shake off ghosts of Copenhagen climate talks, back proposals

4:00 am 
peaksurfer: Calderon: Inertia of mistrust led to paralysis and inaction. Refound hope today.

bryanrwalsh: Spare a thought for the Danes-the shock of Copenhagen likely had to happen before Cancun agreement could

peaksurfer Calderon: Given the gravity of the problem ... we are enabled to act, and act straight away.

david_turnbull: adopts Cancun Agreements. Important steps, faith restored but lots more to be done. We live to fight another day. 

I posted that and went to sleep 6 hours ago, at 4:15 am. Here is some commentary that came in while I was 10-7:

Alex Stark, tcktcktck: Liveblogging: Last day of the Cancun Climate Change Conference (with photos)


Message of Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, regarding the newly adopted Agreements of Cancun (video of closing statement to the COP)


Cancun, Mexico (CNN) -- Delegates at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, approved an agreement early Saturday morning despite objections from Bolivia, whose government claimed rich nations "bullied and cajoled" other countries into accepting a deal on their terms.

Protesting the overrule of its country's vote, Bolivia's Foreign Ministry called the Cancun text "hollow" and ineffective in a written statement.

"Its cost will be measured in human lives. History will judge harshly," the statement said, adding that developing nations will face the worst consequences of climate change.

USA Delegation Press Conference at 5:30 am (video) "Very good, from our point of view."

Brad Johnson, in a Wonk Room cross-post at Climate Progress: The Cancun Compacts — Nations of world choose hope in face of climate crisis:

The first lesson of the Cancun talks is that the governments of the world can in fact work together on global warming, even though decoupling civilization from greenhouse pollution is a herculean task. However, the second lesson is that their leadership only gets humanity so far. Only the full mobilization of the present generation can overcome the institutional barriers to change and protect our fragile civilization from the raging climate system our pollution has created. The Cancun compact has restored hope around the world, but now the actual work has to begin.

Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones: Cancun Climate Breakthrough — It's Not Perfect, But It's a Deal

The debate over the future of the Kyoto Protocol—which legally binds industrialized countries to reduce emissions—is the major lingering question. The United States, of course, famously failed to sign on to Kyoto. Japan and Russia have balked at a second commitment period for the 13-year-old protocol, while developing countries have said that allowing the agreement to expires is a deal-breaker for their ongoing participation in broader climate negotiations. The fate of Kyoto wasn't resolved in Cancun. "The biggest hole in the Cancun agreement is its failure to permanently resolve the Kyoto conflict. To be fair, that would have been an impossible task this year," said Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations. "But Kyoto will come back as a front burner issue next year in Durban, and it will be impossible to avoid it again."

It's not clear, said Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute in Boston, whether that one-year delay on a decision will serve as "a lifeline or a noose" for Kyoto.

US envoy Stern skirted the question of the question of whether the new agreement is heading toward a legally binding form anytime soon. "The day will come when there is a legal agreement, but we're not going to hang everything up on that," Stern told reporters.

"We should not see this Cancun conference as an end. We should see it rather as a beginning," said Mexico's Espinosa. "The text we have before us really seems to be the best we could achieve at this point in a long process."

The Guardian (London, unattributed):

More reaction to the deal from environmentalists, who note that while it was a step in the right direction it falls short of the action required to curb global warning.

Wendel Trio of Greenpeace said: "Cancun may have saved the process but it did not yet save the climate." Alden Meyer, of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, agreed that it "wasn't enough to save the climate. But he added that the deal "did restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made."

3.03pm: We're closing the liveblog now. But there'll be more coverage of the deal in tomorrow's Observer.

In the meantime, here's a recap of the main points of the agreement:

•All countries to cut emissions

•Payments for countries who avoid deforestation and conserve nature

•Finance deal to provide $30bn for developing countries to adapt to climate change now, and potentially up to $100bn later.

•A new UN climate fund to be run mostly by developing countries

•Easier transfer of low carbon technology and expertise to poor countries

•China, the US and other major emitters to have their economies inspected

•Scientific review of progress after five years


Suzanne Goldenberg (quoted in The Guardian):

    I've heard a lot of comment this morning that the deal is a big win for the US, which came to Cancun with nothing to offer – given that Obama is not going to be able to deliver anything substantial on climate for at least the next two years.

    As Todd Stern, the US climate envoy, indicated at his press conference, Cancun delivers on two important matters.

    Firstly, it solidifies the idea that emerged at Copenhagen that emerging economies like India and China will eventually be legally required to cut their emissions – like the historic big emitters.

    "What we did this year is bring a lot of substance into that agreement," Stern said. "Ideas that were first of just skeletal last year and that weren't approved are now approved and were elaborated on. That is the core of what we see as a significant step forward."


Brad Johnson again at Climate Progress: Calderon on climate talks: “As we’re squabbling, the plane is going down.”

Calderon: "Sometimes I think in this respect we fail to understand that we’re all passengers in the same vessel, in the same aircraft, or the same vehicle. Our aircraft has now seen the disappearance of the pilot. Something happened in the cabin. And all the passengers are responsible for the aircraft, and we’re squabbling about these matters. Whether the guilt lies with those in the tourist class or those sitting up front in first class and the plane continues to go down. It’s as if we were in a truck on a winding road and the driver has had a heart attack, and we’re all on the edge of hitting a tree, going over into a ravine, squabbling again. I think, friends, somebody has to take control of the aircraft or put on the brakes.

"Taking control of the truck, taking the rudder, and starting to apply the brakes isn’t the only problem. We don’t know which curve we’re going to crash in. We need to get back the controls which we lost a long time ago. Let us take that step. Let us be practical where we can be practical — which implies not resignation or renunciation with respect to the fact that this is the only world we’ve got. The island states and everyone’s countries should last reasonably and should be fit for living in forever. This is the target. But today let us act. I don’t think that radical pretexts or all-or-nothing postures should provide a proper excuse for those who don’t want to cooperate to spend another year fighting and squabbling among the passengers among that single truck, that single bus, that single aircraft which is on the point of crashing. We need to get control back over the vessel."


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