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The Cancún negotiations « Previous | |Next »
December 13, 2010

The failure of the Copenhagen climate summit last year (it proposed a system of voluntary pledges that were very low) dealt a blow to the idea that governments could control the output of greenhouse gases in their societies.

This failure by the UN disclosed that the Rudd Government was more or less naked on the issue, and that it lacked the political courage to push for the reforms required to shift the Australian economy to a low carbon one. The fossil fuel industry and its allies won that battle.

The Cancún negotiations were an attempt to try and patch up the process of multi-lateral talks and set new building blocks for a legally binding treaty. The result is a modest step on from the failure at Copenhagen As the editorial in The Observer states:

First, they outlined a mechanism that could play a critical role in helping to prevent the deforestation of developing nations, a major ecological issue. Second, the talks established a fund that will raise and disburse $100bn (£64bn) a year by 2020 to protect poor nations against climate impacts and assist them with low-carbon development. Third, they set up a mechanism to transfer low-carbon technologies to developing countries.

The final text has references to a long-term goal of holding temperatures to 2C and a future review of whether the target should be revised to 1.5C. Nations agreed once again that world average temperatures should be allowed to rise by no more than 2C, but once again they declined to commit collectively to real and binding targets for emissions cuts by which performance could be measured.

It is a modest step because the Cancún result pushes the dispute---the widening divide between rich and poor countries over the architecture of a global agreement--- to next year's talks. The current Kyoto commitments expire at the end of 2012, making the next UN conference the last practical opportunity to seal a new set of Kyoto commitments in the form of a global formal treaty through the UN process. The Kyoto protocol is the only existing legally binding treaty, but only demands cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from rich, industrialised nations. Kyoto excludes the big emerging economies of China, Brazil and India.

The US is going backwards on Obama's domestic green agenda. They will not be taking strong action to cut their emissions. They, and other developed nations such as Japan, use various tactics to wriggle out of taking strong action to cut their emissions.

The irony of the situation in Australia is that as temperatures become hotter--especially in the cities--air conditioning will become not a luxury but a life saver. Air conditioning runs on electricity, still provided largely by fossil fuel. The extremes of heat, and the consequent increase in urban air conditioning, are likely to make future heatwaves even more lethal.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:51 AM | | Comments (2)


climate change is the classic example of the Rudd/Gillard government talking big on reform but under-delivering big time.

From what I saw of Combet in the news he seemed to come over well. Better than Penny Wong is my initial feeling. I would guess that he isnt as intelligent as her and he hasn't had to back pedal on anything yet but he does appear to be genuine in his commitment.