The Cancun climate change conference scored “eight out of 10″ as far as Chris Huhne, the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, was concerned. He told MPs on Wednesday afternoon that the conference marked “real progress”, and added that although there was hard work still to be done – he singled out agreeing on a legal form for any future climate deal as the toughest nut to crack – the willingness to move forward shown at Cancun was a good omen for the negotiations to come.
Greg Barker, a ministerial colleague of Huhne’s (though from the Conservative side of the coalition government, while Huhne is a Liberal Democrat), chided the secretary of state for being “unduly modest” in his account of the talks. The UK, along with the environment minister of Brazil, Izabella Teixera, chaired a working group that sought to agree a compromise on the future of the Kyoto protocol, a key sticking point in the talks.
Against expectations, the Cancun climate change conference came up with a deal. Not a full, comprehensive deal. Not a legally binding treaty. Not a perfect deal. But a compromise that represents real progress compared with the entrenched positions that negotiators have held for more than a decade.
Some of the hardest decisions have been put off until next year. The future of the Kyoto protocol is a totemic issue for developing countries, and it was put aside as too hard to sort out this year. The question of what legal form any new agreement should take has also been left hanging. And while a “green fund” was ushered in with much fanfare, there is still no agreement on how exactly the $100bn a year it will require should be raised.
But those who leapt to attack the Cancun deal as soon as the chairman’s gavel had been brought down should be ignored. They would have said that anyway – they always do. By the yardstick of those perfectionists who work in NGOs, all climate change talks, like all political careers, end in failure.
With the Cancun climate conference entering its final hours, delegates and observers conceded that although progress had been made on several important issues – forestry, clean technology cooperation, a green fund for poor countries – there were still many areas yet to be resolved, including the legal form of any agreement, private sector financing, and the future of the Kyoto protocol.
Ambassador Shin of South Korea told the FT: “We are going to have to leave many things as homework for the next year.”
In this week’s readers’ Q&A session, Yvo de Boer, the man who led the UN into the Copenhagen climate talks and is now an advisor to KPMG, answers your questions.
On the final day of the Cancun climate talks, Yvo discusses the progress made towards a comprehensive global climate treaty, the (lack of) future for a global carbon tax, and how crucial emissions trading schemes are.
Next in the hotseat is Peter Voser, the chief executive of Shell, who will be answering your questions on this site next Friday, December 17th. Send in your questions for consideration by the end of today – Friday, December 10th – to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But for now, over to Yvo:
Yvo de Boer, the former head of the UN’s climate change department and the man who led the UN’s efforts at Copenhagen, has said he doesn’t think a global carbon tax will ever be agreed.
Answering questions from Energy Source readers, de Boer said:
Personally, I don’t see a global carbon tax ever being agreed.
As the Cancun talks reach their climax, Anne Kelly, co-director of policy at Ceres, a coalition of groups working with companies on sustainability, gives us her run down of the last week and a half:
The mantra that nothing will happen at Cop16 in Cancun misses the collaboration and creative thinking that occurs outside the Moon Palace.
At one reception, a confab of 200 businesses, NGOs and youth groups didn’t break up until 1.30am.
Included were a mix of big companies like Marriott and Microsoft and big dreamers, with names like Future 500, R-20, TckTckTck and NEXUS: Carbon for Development.
There was a minor controversy at the Cancun talks on Wednesday when the question of whether Chris Huhne, the UK energy and environment secretary, would have to return to London came up.
The problem was over the crunch vote on higher education tuition fees. With several Lib Dems threatening to rebel against the leadership on the issue, there was a real chance Huhne would be recalled to cast his vote.
That would have been gravely disruptive, because Huhne is, with his Brazilian counterpart Isabella Teixera, co-chair of a vital working group – the group with the task of forging a compromise on the future of the Kyoto protocol, one of the most contentious issues at the talks.
Developing countries and some major emerging economies – chiefly China, but also including India and others – insist that the Kyoto treaty must continue beyond 2012, when most of its current provisions expire.
This issue of a “second commitment period” in the jargon – so-called because when the treaty was originally signed, it was envisaged that the signatories would meet their 2012 targets then set a new set of tougher targets, and keep doing so at intervals – is one of the trickiest in the talks.
As ministers arrived in Cancun to join their officials, the star of the show so far was obvious: the Mexican hosts.
Praise has been heaped on the Mexicans for their skilful chairing of key meetings and the way they have managed to rebuild trust – especially among developing countries – after the acrimonious scenes that marred the final stages of the Copenhagen summit last year.