Last year around this time, all eyes were on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen, as the international community attempted to create a comprehensive, legally binding global climate change agreement and to determine the next phase of emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Doing so would have been an unprecedented example of international coordination; unfortunately, the nations of the world fell short of what might have been an extraordinary outcome.
This week, world leaders have another opportunity to put us on track to address the global issue of climate change. This time they are gathering in Cancun, Mexico, where the UNFCCC’s 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) is about to take place. However, many people appear to be writing the talks off as a failure before they even begin.
Success. Failure. These words make for good headlines, but in reality the outcome from Cancun is likely to be more nuanced than that. And that is good news.
It’s true that the climate talks in Cancun are unlikely to result in the type of comprehensive agreement that many had hoped for in Copenhagen. But these negotiations can put us back on course. A new comprehensive global climate agreement is still possible in next year’s meeting in Durban, South Africa — possible and necessary. Because here’s the deal: when it comes to climate change action, we can’t afford to wait.
Climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time. Without integrated international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change impacts, we are putting the lives and livelihoods of billions at risk. The UNFCCC is the only international climate change body that includes every country in the world; therefore, true climate solutions will not be possible without decisive actions by this group.
But time is running out. Without the advancement of key negotiations in Cancun, a comprehensive post-2012 agreement may slip through our fingers once and for all.
COP16 provides a critical opportunity to advance the work that was left undone in Copenhagen.
At the meeting, delegations from 196 countries will be joined by indigenous groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and other stakeholders. CI staff members working in nearly 20 countries will participate in the meeting as both national representatives and advisors. After a year of preparation, negotiations and engagement with governments and key stakeholders, we are prepared to work around the clock to inform decision-makers about important issues based on our field experience and scientific and policy expertise.
We hope to support the political process and development of policies in Cancun in order to achieve these main goals:
- Advancement of UNFCCC negotiations and agreement on a timeline that puts the world on track for comprehensive post-2012 climate agreement(s).
- A detailed REDD+ decision that, among other things, includes social and environmental safeguards and activities beyond deforestation and forest degradation; secures adequate and sustainable financing; and initiates a process to establish clear guidelines on reference levels and Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV).
- A detailed adaptation decision that includes a framework for adaptation action and support for community and ecosystem-based adaptation solutions.
The conference, which runs from November 29–December 10, is likely to be a rollercoaster ride of hectic days and late nights. Check back on our blog for the latest updates on the COP16 negotiations.
Rebecca Chacko is the director of climate policy in CI’s Center for Conservation and Government. Read all of our policy recommendations for COP16 (PDF – 101 KB).