Cancun delegates tell us their wishlists

As ministers, negotiators, NGOs and reporters prepare to jet off to Cancun for the annual UN climate talks,  five prominent delegates outline what they want to see from the next two weeks of talks.

Keep your eye on Energy Source throughout the Cancun summit for Fiona’s regular posts, plus thoughts from other delegates around the summit.

Are you going to Cancun? Comment below on what you want to see happen. And if you want to post for the FT on your experiences while there, let us know at energysource@ft.com.

Here are the views of four experts representing different parties at the talks:

Yvo de Boer, KPMG advisor and former UN Climate Change leader

Cancun will not succeed without a confident, hard-hitting show of support from governments – and a commitment to recognise the contribution business can make. My hope is that we can start to think imaginatively – and realistically – about market-based mechanisms that can make it advantageous for countries and companies to engage.

These investment frameworks must allow enlightened business initiatives to thrive. Current experience with the clean development mechanism shows that one well-invested public dollar can be the catalyst for an additional US$10 of private sector investment.

By supporting an approach that rewards private involvement, Cancun can provide the financial incentive industries need to make the global step-change to sustainable business practice. There must also be progress on the development and implementation of nationally appropriate mitigation actions – in the form of goals, benchmarks, and similar measurements.

Cancun will succeed if it proves it can mobilise business and finance across both the developed and developing worlds to take coordinated action on global climate change work. Whether or not a headline-making global agreement emerges in the short term is, in my view, not the main goal.  Instead, a clear, ambitious and realistic game-plan that brings business and government together in search of common answers is something that we should consider a substantive win.

Chris Huhne, UK energy secretary

We are clearly not expecting a final agreement at Cancun.

But our objective is to ensure that we reinvigorate the whole UNFCCC process and we manage to get a renewed sense of momentum with the ambition of therefore reaching full agreement in South Africa next year.

So success in Cancun for the UK doesn’t clearly mean a final agreement but it does mean getting closer to a legally binding deal that we want.

That means keeping the show on the road, making sure the European Union is united and that we work constructively with the leading developing countries, China and India, amongst others.

It also in practical terms means progress on those bits of the dossier which we can legitimately see progress on in Cancun, and which can be separated out.

That doesn’t mean we’re going to get a formal final sign off on these bits. But it does mean we ought to make enough progress that people can see that when they slot into the final agreement, that we will have done a lot.

That’s particularly on forestry, finance, on mitigation commitments; trying to bring into the UNFCCC process the commitments which were made in Copenhagen. That doesn’t mean they’re legally binding in a UNFCCC way. But that they can be assessed and put as part of the whole process.

Comments adapted from press briefing by Chris Huhne earlier this week

Image by WWF

Keith Allott, head of climate change, WWF UK

Are governments still willing and able to tackle climate change through a multilateral framework? At Cancun they must prove that they are willing to move beyond the chaos and lack of trust that dominated last year’s summit in Copenhagen.

It is particularly important for the large economies from the developed and developing world to step up to address this most global of challenges. At Cancun, each key economy has the chance to pursue constructive positions that can move us beyond the current stalemate.

A successful Cancun meeting will result in firm plans towards a comprehensive, legally-binding global deal to come into force by the end of 2012. But it must also make substantive progress on content to give a genuinely balanced package. We need to see clear frameworks on adaptation and tackling emissions from deforestation, along with the establishment of an equitably governed and adequately resourced global climate fund under the UN to support action in developing countries.

Governments must also recognise that emission reduction pledges made at Copenhagen – particularly from developed nations, including the EU – are much too weak to avoid dangerous levels of warming, and agree to a process to close this alarming gap.

Mark Spelman, Managing Director, Strategy, Accenture

Cancun will be one more step on the road to Rio in 2012. The Mexican Government has worked hard to progress the agenda since Copenhagen but it’s clear that a global emissions deal will remain elusive.

The US midterm elections will hinder any legally binding commitment from Washington and Europe will be on the backfoot, having been sidelined in Copenhagen. A global deal based on economy-wide emissions targets is unlikely, insufficient and undesirable as it will only produce a lowest common denominator outcome.

Without a worldwide agreement, we could see the emergence of a patchwork of cap-and trade systems and regulations that will inevitably lead to concerns around carbon leakage.  As we are already seeing in Europe, this patchwork weakens the environmental value of systems like the EU ETS.

So at Cancun policy makers should acknowledge this multi-carbon policy world and make the international system robust to that reality. They should grant businesses a more active voice in negotiations and formalise their participation. Sector agreements for high emitters should return to the agenda. Steel and cement account for 15 per cent of global emissions between them, for instance, and these sectors have made significant progress in identifying solutions.

Private sector investment will be critical to addressing climate change, given tight public budgets. The push for sector agreements will have to come from policy makers, but now is the time for businesses to step forward and claim their role at the negotiating table.

Fiona Harvey, FT environment correspondent

After the hype and fanfare that attended last year’s global summit on climate change in Copenhagen, this year’s meeting was bound to be lower key. Copenhagen produced an accord signed by most of the world’s governments, but not a legally binding treaty. Some of the proponents of a treaty hoped to turn the Accord into a treaty this year.

There is every possibility that Cancun will dissolve, just as Copenhagen did, into a chaos of recriminations and acrimony. Despite that chaos, the impetus of world leaders at Copenhagen ensured that there was at least a useful outcome – for the first time, developed and developing countries jointly agreed to curb emissions. That would have been a useful basis for future negotiations. At Cancun we will find out how likely that is to happen.

That proved too optimistic – it has proved far too difficult, and in the intervening year, some of the progress made at Copenhagen has effectively been reversed, with some countries seeking to reopen some of the arguments that were supposed to have been settled.

So the most that Cancun can achieve is to be a staging post on the way to a potential new global agreement that could – if the optimists are right this time – be signed in

(Why, you might ask, are governments going to the trouble of meeting in Cancun if the outcome is likely to be so meagre? All signatories to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are required to hold a meeting every year.)

Although expectations are low, useful work can be done at Cancun. For instance, developing countries are hoping for a deal on forestry that would allow them to be paid for preserving their remaining forests. This thorny issue has been unresolved in nearly two decades of talks, so if it could be sorted out in Cancun, that would be a major achievement.

Another area where progress could be made is in finding ways to finance greenhouse gas emissions reductions in developing countries. A recent report from a UN working group set out various means of achieving this.

But all this presumes that nations are going to Cancun in a cooperative spirit. Sadly, having attended the last six such annual meetings, I am not convinced that they will do so. Too often, these meetings get bogged down in futile levels of detail, and tetchy negotiators end up arguing over punctuation in the early hours of the morning.

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