Canada hails Cancun accord as building block for campaign aganst global warming
CANCUN, Mexico — The international community has reached a consensus on the building blocks for a legally binding treaty on global warming that could dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions, senior Canadian government officials said Saturday.
Following a marathon negotiating session at the annual United Nations climate-change summit, which was extended at this tropical Mexican resort by an extra day, Canadian Environment Minister John Baird and Canada’s climate-change ambassador, Guy Saint-Jacques, said the agreements reached represented a “modest, reasonable” outcome to the two weeks of discussions.
But Baird said the international community will have to work very hard to ensure that all major polluting countries are on board for a future deal that will ensure global emissions peak within the next decade and eventually decline.
“This represents the first step to a single, new legally binding agreement,” Baird told reporters, “A first step.”
The agreements “recognized” previous individual goals from the nearly 200 countries at the table, but did not adopt any legally binding targets.
Following the disappointment of last year’s summit in Copenhagen, which failed to reach a binding agreement to extend commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, negotiators said the new package would allow them to finally move forward.
“Cancun has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited, and faith in the multilateral climate-change process to deliver results has been restored,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof to reach consensus on a common cause,” she said.
Climate scientists have concluded that global emissions must be dramatically slashed within years to prevent global warming and its consequences from seriously damaging the Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity.
The “Cancun agreements” call for “deep cuts” to greenhouse gas emissions to limit the rise of average global temperatures by two degrees Celsius.
The conference also established new frameworks for funds to deploy new technology and support vulnerable countries, as well as new initiatives to preserve forests and prevent emissions linked to deforestation.
The lead U.S. negotiator, Todd Stern, acknowledged the deal is “not perfect” but he said it provides a basis for launching a successful global green fund, establishing a mechanism to transfer and share new clean technologies as well as reducing deforestation, and improving adaptation measures for vulnerable countries.
“I think this text does provide the necessary balance to do that and points the way forward,” Stern told delegates.
The agreements will now officially recognize new targets of industrialized countries under a process that will require them all to develop low-carbon or climate-change strategies.
A new monitoring registry will also be set up to record emissions-reduction actions from developing countries. Their actions will officially be recognized, and they will be required to report progress every two years.
The existing legally binding treaty, the Kyoto Protocol will survive with its member parties, including Canada, agreeing to aim for new mandatory targets for a second phase or commitment period starting in 2013. In the first phase of 2008 to 2012, industrialized countries were required to collectively reduce their emissions by an average of five per cent below 1990 levels.
The Conservative government backed out of that commitment after coming to power in 2006, eschewing a scheme that the United States had always refused to accept.
The Kyoto agreement is an update to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The latter, which in fact has been ratified by the U.S., could also be used to include the Americans in a regime with legally binding targets.
“This is not the end, but it is a new beginning,” Figueres said. “It is not what is ultimately required, but it is the essential foundation on which to build greater, collective ambition.”
Baird explained there was skepticism and mistrust following the Copenhagen conference, which concluded with a series of closed door meetings of the “elite.”
But he and Saint-Jacques both praised the Mexican leadership at the conference, chaired by Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, for moving beyond the “ghost of Copenhagen” and ensuring a transparent process that kept the door open for all to participate.
“The shadow of Copenhagen, the three-ring circus, really cast a long shadow over this meeting,” Baird said. “People were not happy (about having) the sort of inner group of elites … me