Cancun climate talks-Day 4

Dec 02, 2010

Representatives from nearly 200 nations have gathered for United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Cancun this week. Chat with Rebecca Chacko about how the talks about going and what hopes to be accomplished.

What hope of binding post-Kyoto commitments?

That is exactly what we need and what we are working on here.  Countries are negotiating what binding commitments they might make under the Kyoto Protocol post-2012 and also new commitments under a more comprehensive agreement that we hope will be agreed as a legally binding agreement in South Africa next year.  Right now everything is on the table in Cancun and that means anything could happen.  Given where things have been, that is good news--binding post-2012 commitments are still a real possibility.

What progress has there been in Cancun to protect the world's forests? Are countries beginning to make commitments and others providing more funds?

This is a great question.  Forests have a really important role to play in both mitigating and adapting to climate change.  Did you know that deforestation contributes to about 16% of global carbon emissions annually?  That's more than all the world's cars, trucks, planes, and ships combined!  That's one of the reasons Conservation International is here.  The good news about forests is that protecting forests can be a relatively cost-effective way to contribute to climate mitigation and we get a lot of other benefits from protecting forests too.  The negotiations on forests is one of the pieces of the climate negotiations that has seen the most progress over the past 2 years.  Many countries see it as a win-win solution.  A decision is almost ready to go as long as negotiators are able to make compromises and agree on other essential elements of the draft climate agreement.  We're only 4 days into the conference and direct negotiations on forests start tomorrow.  So stay tuned.

How can we be optimistic that this cancun summit will bring lots of hopes to halt risk of climate change? Will it be different from last copenhagen summit?

The atmosphere here in Cancun is very different than it was in Copenhagen last year.  We all learned a lot from Copenhagen and countries know they will need to compromise.  Negotiators and others are working here in a very constructive, down-to-earth way.  We are not seeing the ultra-politicization and media hullaballo that we saw in Copenhagen.  We do know that some heads of state are planning to arrive next week and we will need political will from countries to move forward.  But, we also need the Parties to work out some of the techical issues and that is what they are doing now.  We also see the Mexican government, which is serving as the conference president, playing a very positive role, reaching out and working with countries. 

I heard there is a good deal of buzz about Blue Carbon at this year's COP. What is the likelihood that Blue Carbon or some variation of coastal/marine mitigation will be incorporated into any agreement that may come from Cancun?

Blue Carbon refers to the role that marine ecosystems such as mangroves, sea grasses and salt marshes can play in climate mitigation.  These ecosystems are very powerful in sequestering and storing carbon, but these systems are under severe threat.  The topic of Blue Carbon was introduced here in Cancun.    It is still in its initial stages.  Scientists are working to understand the role these ecosystems play in climate and we are hopeful that improved management of these ecosystems will soon make major contributions to climate solutions.

What is your opinion/reaction about Japan's announcement that it will oppose the extension of the Kyoto Protocol?

Yesterday Japan announced that it will not inscribe the commitments it made in the Copenhagen Accord into the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (starting in 2012).  Japan did not say that it would oppose the extension of the Kyoto Protocol.  This is concerning, however, because right now the Kyoto Protocol is the only binding agreement that we have on climate change.  We are working on a more comprehensive climate agreement here in Cancun, but there is no guarantee that it will maintain the same strong requirements for developed countries that the Kyoto Protocol has already established.  It is likely Japan did this is because they want to put pressure on the US and China, who do not have obligations under Kyoto.  We agree that commitments from the world's 2 largest emitters will be critical to limiting global average increase in temperatures to less than 2 degrees celsius.  We hope that Japan will work with the US and its neighbor China so that they will be able to accept the type of commitments that are necessary and that it will show flexibility on its on participation in Kyoto.  Japan's commitment in Copenhagen was a strong one--it pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.  Japan is not backing away from that commitment.

What is needed in order for countries to take further action to conserve forests in order to mitigate climate change NOW? It's a disappearing opportunity!!

We have a real opportunity for a decision on forests in Cancun as part of a balanced package of decisions coming out of this meeting.  That would go a long way towards helping countries limit deforestation by creating an international mechanism that addresses the problem.  This topic has been negotiated for 3 years and last week the Chair offered compromise text that seems to have the support of many countries.  We think that if countries engage with this text, we can achieve a forest agreement here and we are hopeful that they will not spend too much time discussing the details of various other proposals.  Another great thing happening for forests is the REDD+ Partnership.  Over 60 countries are working together in this Partnership to coordinate immediate action to limit emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.  Developed countries have committed about $4.5 billion to help developing countries tackle the problem of deforestation in the short term.  A decision here in Cancun could guarantee solutions for global deforestation in the long term as well.

We all know that Cancun will not be the same as Copenhagen and that progress in Cancun will be much more nuanced than last year. For Conservation International, what are the key issue(s) to be agreed upon? Where do you most want to see progress in this summit?

There are a number of areas where we need progress.  One is under the Kyoto Protocol.  On the new comprehensive agreement, we need to see progress in all areas--shared vision, adaptation, mitigation, finance, technology and capacity building.  I want to take a moment to talk about one of these areas since we haven't addressed it yet.  That is adaptation.  This is a critical issue.  The climate is already changing.  Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, floods are inundating people and their homes.  No matter what we do on mitigation, we need to address adaptation as well.   That means Parties need to agree to a framework for adaptation and that developed countries need to commit financing in order to help developing countries adapt.  Luckily, this is also a part of the negotiations that has seen a lot of advancement over the past 2 years and we are hopeful that it can be one of Cancun's successes.

In This Chat
Rebecca Chacko
Rebecca Chacko is the director of climate policy in Conservation International's Center for Conservation and Government.
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