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COP 16: Agreement on Form But Without the Funds

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.

The 16th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ended in Cancun on December 11 with the adoption of a raft of decisions.

There were 15,482 delegates in attendance at the COP 16, including 6164 government representatives from 192 signatory countries, 4 from a state with observer status, 339 members of 25 divisions of the UN Secretariat, 231 from 19 UN institutions and specialized agencies, 429 from 47 intergovernmental agencies, 6377 from 647 NGOs, and 1938 representatives of 699 media outlets.

Greenpeace Mexico march to Mexico City's historic center to ask for concrete resolutions to fight climate change. Photo by LUIS RAMON BARRON TINAJERO, copyright Demotix (03/12/2010)

Optimism prevailed among the politicians and other officials attending, as demonstrated by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the COP 16, who stated the following at the closing ceremony:

“Cancun has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process has been restored.”

Ordinary citizens and Bolivia, the only country that did not vote for the final text, are not so certain.

The blog of the Togolese section of the NGO network Young Volunteers for the Environment, founded in 2001 and operating in 13 countries throughout Africa and in America, contained a virulent article by Séna Alouka. He described the city where he was writing from as being against the COP 16 sessions and their outcome. In an article entitled “Accord bidon à Cancun: A quel prix?”( Phony Agreement in Cancun: At What Cost?), the author wrote “from the all-expenses-paid, all countries, all inclusive hotel, the Crowne Paradise Cancun”:

Strategies were needed to save face and to “keep the patient in a coma” for as long as possible. Cancun provided an opportunity for several delegates to form, exchange, share, and discuss real solutions to the problem of climate change. Although this city by the sea,  whose construction was damaging to the environment, garnered millions of dollars from this COP, it managed to strike a blow to the neocolonials found in the histories of G20, G8, or G2 meetings by demonstrating that it is more gentlemanly to discuss in public and to follow the spirit of the Convention's principles.

At the closing session of the COP 16 in Cancun at 5 AM on December 11, 2010, in a room with 70 people at best, Séna Alouka asks this question:

Where did the 15,000 people registered here go? They probably went to finish their shopping and rush home. In the end, they came up with a text called the “Cancun Agreement,” which has the advantage of receiving the approval of the majority of delegates (better than the previous episode in Copenhagen).

The author noted sarcastically that he appreciated

the EXTREMELY POSITIVE nature of all the press releases I've read since yesterday. For most of our English-speaking colleagues, and those in the Climate Action Network (whose mechanism I am now mastering),  the majority of the releases were prepared well before the end of the COP.

…. whatever the final Cancun agreement is, the President ended her speech with such a phrase: “We understand that we are not following our own internal regulations but to save face at Cancun, we are adopting the text.”

The blog opapilles.hautetfort.com thinks that

The agreement nevertheless failed on the critical point: deep and binding cuts in CO2 emissions for developed countries. As it is, the collection of measures will not be enough to stop the advance of the climate machine. CO2 emissions have increased 37% since 1990, and temperatures could climb by 4 to 6 °C by the end of the century.

Serge Orru, on the site WWWF.fr, asserts in his article, “Il faut préparer l'après Cancun” (We Must Prepare for Post-Cancun):

Yes, progress was made in Cancun that must be given form…but, it is in our industrialized nations that we must massively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, weapons of mass destruction of mankind! ….

It's like a Christmas present for our children, but Santa Claus doesn't exist (shhh, just don't tell our little darlings)

or rather, he must truly exist in each of us, in our actions and in our deeds, every day!

Jean-Michel Bélouve wrote an article on his blog reprinted by the site agora.fr called “Conférence climatique de Cancun: l'accord cache le désaccord” (Cancun Climate Conference: The Disagreement Behind the Agreement):

We may ask ourselves how the countries that we still call wealthy can agree to pay out such sums ($100 billion, by 2020). The agreement also fails to mention the sources of the financing. But we fully realize that the countries of the West, with excess debt and some of them headed for bankruptcy, will not be able to consent to such a demand on public funds. So, during the workshops, they planned new taxes…

The cost of collecting, monitoring, and policing such a system would be very high, and its effectiveness would be uncertain.

Jean-Michel continues, saying that they simply make references to innovative taxes, and adds:

In short, they don't know where to find the money, because none of the developed countries at the negotiating table appear ready to reach for their wallets.

The article also mentions another point in the agreement that appears difficult to implement. The large emerging countries (China, India, Brazil, etc.) are asked to report their inventories of greenhouse gas emissions, and the actions taken to reduce them. The article draws certain conclusions about this request:

These reports will be submitted for international review, which is to be “nonintrusive,” “nonpunitive,” and “respectful of national sovereignty.” To put it plainly, there will be no monitoring, simply a statement from the countries concerned.

Pierre-Jean wrote an article in his blog neitherdoi.wordpress.com on December 14 called “Cancun : la Bolivie persiste et ne signe pas,” (Cancun: Bolivia Still Won't Sign):

Pablo Solon, negotiator for Bolivia, said, “this agreement won't stop temperature from rising by 4°C.” A Green Fund managed by the World Bank, no word on how the money will be collected, no specific commitments to lower emissions, recognition of REDD mechanism  (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) as is, in other words, without considering indigenous populations or recognizing market mechanisms, etc. Seen from this perspective, we reach the conclusion that not only was Bolivia right to be opposed, but that it is also the last spokesman for the most radical opponents.

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development 2011.

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