Cancun climate talks: a last-minute glimmer of hope

Posted: 11 December 2010

After two weeks of talks at Cancun, uncertainty reigns over whether anything meaningful can be extracted from the climate negotiations which went on into a second long night.

But commentators took some comfort when at two minutes past one this morning two texts were released from the parallel strands of the talks which showed that some progress has been made. Lucy Brinicombe of Oxfam reports.

The new Kyoto and LCA texts can breathe life into the climate talks, offering the possibility of tackling the Kyoto conundrum and setting up a new climate fund, which can provide life-saving climate finance to people in poor countries already struggling with the impacts of climate change. [The 'LCA text' refers to the Long-term Co-operative Action strand of the talks. This includes the United States and runs alongside the Kyoto Protocol level strand.]

The new texts do not offer everything needed to tackle climate change, and some countries will find things they do not like or find it hard to accept. But if these texts are agreed, they can signal that the world is serious about moving ahead towards a global climate agreement. This will require a re-doubling of efforts over the coming months.

The mitigation package presented in the Kyoto and LCA texts could help build the confidence developing countries need that developed countries are serious about a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The decision sets the mitigation pledges made after Copenhagen as the minimum effort expected, and sets a path to strengthen them in line with the demands of science.

The lack of a system to ensure strong compliance for the US is a gap, which needs to be addressed to ensure targets are kept and real emissions cuts take place.

The establishment of a new Climate Fund in the LCA text, with a fair process to finalise its design, offers hope that a fair Climate Fund can be created in short order and start delivering the cash poor countries need. A first step has been taken in ensuring adaptation will receive a good share of the resources in the new fund, helping to address the adaptation gap in current finance flows. But an important reference to ensuring gender balance in the decision-making structures of the new fund has been lost, and needs to be brought back.

There remain some question marks over the sources of long-term finance to fill the fund, so it is important that governments agree in the final hours to ensure an empty fund is not set-up in Cancun. There is still time to agree to a levy on uncapped emissions from international aviation and shipping which can raise substantial new money to help poor countries adapt to climate change, and start on a clean development pathway.  

See minute by minute reports and comment on the final hours of the talks in the Guardian Environment website and at the Climate section of OneWorld online, both on our Home Page.  We will report on the final outcome once the dust settles.