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Cancun Conference Results In Critical Steps Forward


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View Erika Rosenthal's blog posts
15 December 2010, 6:46 PM
Developed and developing countries make key agreements

(Editor's Note: Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal are back from participating at the United Nations climate conference in Cancun, Mexico. This is their assessment of what happened.)

In the early morning hours of December 11, the nations of the world concluded the U.N. climate change conference by adopting a set of decisions that lays the foundation for the world to tackle climate change in the future, while taking modest but critical steps forward on key issues.

Although there is still "a long road ahead to travel" to slow global warming, in the words of the Chilean delegate, the Cancún agreements took important immediate steps in the right direction.

The agreement sets up a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries cope with the devastating impacts of climate change. It establishes a mechanism to speed the transfer of clean energy technologies, which are essential if developing countries are to meet their basic needs without further endangering the planet. Because deforestation is responsible for roughly one-fifth of global warming, the agreement creates a framework to compensate developing countries for the preservation of tropical forests.

And developed and developing nations alike agreed to significantly increase the information they share on actions they take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—transparency that is essential to the environmental and political success of any climate agreement.

The text embraces a goal of keeping average global warming below 2°C and, importantly, agrees to consider a 1.5° goal in the future (The 1.5° goal has been the rallying cry of the island states, African nations and others who point to science indicating that two degrees of warming will subject them to inundation by rising seas, drought-induced famine and other devastating impacts of catastrophic climate change.).

The agreement also recognizes that to have a shot at avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, rich countries will have to reduce emissions 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 (For comparison, the United States has pledged to reduce roughly 4 percent below 1990 levels.). And the text contains important language on the need to ensure that human rights are respected and measures taken so that national actions don't harm indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.

Nevertheless, the Cancun agreement still leaves us woefully short of what science says is urgently needed, doing little more than kicking the can down the road on the hard decisions.

For example, the emissions reductions countries have pledged so far only add up to 30 to 60 percent of the overall reductions necessary to have a fair shot at avoiding irreversible, dangerous global warming, and that is based on the increasingly questionable 2 degree warming scenario.

The Cancun agreement recognizes this so-called "gigatonne gap" (referring to the additional amount of greenhouse gas emissions that must be reduced), but puts off any action on addressing it to next year and beyond. The decision on continuing the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that requires the richest nations with the greatest historical responsibility for global warming to reduce their emissions, was similarly put off for a year.

And while the establishment of the climate fund is crucial, there's still no agreement on where the $100 billion in climate assistance that wealthy countries pledged will come from.

At the end of the day, though, the Cancun agreement moved the world forward, helping to restore confidence in the ability and desire of the community of nations to take collective action on global warming, perhaps the greatest challenge of our time.

The United Nations climate system is the only forum where low-income and vulnerable countries that have done little or nothing to contribute to climate change, but are the first to suffer its impacts, have a voice.

On the final night of negotiations, country after country took the floor to acknowledge that the agreements weren't perfect, and "left a long road to travel to ensure the survival of our children and grandchildren" in the words of the Chilean delegate, but that they represented important steps to ensuring a livable planet for future generations.

As the Zambian delegate put it, the agreements "lifted our spirits and renewed our confidence."

Earthjustice and allied organizations will be redoubling our efforts to ensure that the US delivers on its pledged emissions reductions through our landmark environmental law, the Clean Air Act, and other federal laws, through strong state and regional climate and energy policies, and through all other means possible.

 

LOWERING CO2 EMISSIONS IS CRUCIAL BUT AS LONG AS WE CONTINUE TO BREED LIKE RABBITS WE WILL NOT SEE AN IMPROVEMENT IN THE ENVIRONMENT, AS LONG AS WE CUT THE OLD GROWTH FORESTS AND ALLOW OIL COMPANIES TO DRILL IN THE OCEANS WE WILL CONTINUE TO DEGRADE OUR LIVES. ONE EXAMPLE, THE WEATHER IN THE SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN ,30 YEARS AGO ,CAME FROM THE EAST. NOW, THANKS TO CONTINUED CUTTING OF THE BRAZILLIAN RAIN FOREST AND THE HEAT RISING FROM THE EXPOSED LAND AND CLEARING FIRES, IT COMES FROM THE WEST AND THE WINDWARD ISLANDS HAVE BEEN SUFFERING DROUGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN RECORDED HISTORY. IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE. THERE ARE TOO MANY OF "US" AND OUR EGO DECREES THAT WE DO NOT WORK TOGETHER FOR CHANGE SINCE WE SAY WE WANT CHANGE BUT MOST OF US DO NOT WANT TO BE THE ONES TO DO IT.

Just the fact that they keep reporting on this CO2 mistake makes journalists just baton passers, nothing more, noting less. In effect, choosing to report this CO2 insanity, this late in the game, makes this news service complicit in what was the Iraq War of WMD Climate Lies and fear mongering. Scientists will most certainly be prosecuted for this, but you in the media get a free pass as we watch the re-branding of journalism and news editors in the mainscream media to that of mere paperboys.
Turns out climate change has done to journalism and science what abusive priests did to religion.
-Meanwhile, the UN had allowed carbon trading to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 25 years of climate control instead of population control. Nice job.
I thought only neocons used fear as the ONLY motiviator.

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