Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 13 December 2010
Strange outcome of
The United Nations'
It was acclaimed by many for reviving the spirit of multilateralism in the climate change system, because another collapse after the disastrous failure of the Copenhagen talks a year ago would have knocked another hole into the reputation in the UN Climate Convention.
Most delegations congratulated one another, for
agreeing to a document in
The Cancun conference suffered an early blow from
The conference never recovered from that blow. The final text failed to ensure the survival of the protocol, though it sets some terms of reference for continuing the talks next year.
But even as it prepared the ground for the developed
country's “great escape” from their commitments, the
They are now obliged to put forward their plans and targets for climate mitigation, which are to be compiled in a document and later in registries.
It is a first step in a plan by developed countries (they have been quite open about it) to get developing countries to put their mitigation targets as commitments in national schedules, similar to the tariff schedules in the World Trade Organisation.
These reports are to be subjected to a detailed
scrutiny by other countries and by international experts. The Cancun
text in fact gives a lot of space to the details of these “measuring,
reporting and verification” (MRV) procedures as well as “international
consultation and analysis” (
These are all new obligations, and a great deal
of time was spent in Cancun by the developed countries (especially the
Many developing-country officials were increasingly
In fact the developing countries made a lot of
concessions and sacrifices in
The ground is being prepared for such a new system,
which could then replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The Cancun conference also agreed on establishing a new global climate fund under the UNFCCC to help finance the mitigation and adaptation. A committee will be set up to design various aspects of the fund. No decision was taken on how much money the fund will get.
A technology mechanism was also set up under the
UNFCCC, with a policy-making committee, and a centre. However, the
The Cancun conference was also marked by a questionable method of work, quite similar to the WTO but not used in the United Nations, in which the host country, Mexico, organised meetings in small groups led by itself and a few Ministers which it selected, which discussed texts on the various issues.
The final document was produced not through the usual process of negotiations among delegations, but compiled by the Mexicans as the Chair of the meeting, and given to the delegates for only a few hours to consider, on a take it or leave it basis (no amendments are allowed).
At the final plenary,
The Mexican way of organising the writing and
later the adoption of the
The importation of WTO-style methods may in the immediate period lead to the “efficiency” of producing an outcome, but also carries the risk of conferences collapsing in disarray (as has happened in several WTO ministerial meetings) and in biases in the text, that usually have been in favour of developed countries.
When the dust settles after the Cancun conference, a careful analysis will find that its text may have given the multilateral climate system a shot in the arm and positive feelings among most participants because there was something to take home, but that it also failed to save the planet from climate change and helped pass the burden onto developing countries.
From this low base level, much work needs to be done in 2011 to save the world from climate change, and to reorientate the international system of cooperation to address the climate crisis.