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Climate change

Hope regained in CancĂșn

14 December 2010

The goal of the Socialist International and of our Commission for a Sustainable World Society for an ambitious and realistic international agreement on climate change, with binding commitments, objectives and deadlines, on hold since Copenhagen, has gained ground with the decisions reached in Cancún. A unified response by the international community to climate change, an objective which our International and our Commission has placed great emphasis on and strongly called for, is closer, while multilateralism and the United Nations process to deal with climate have regained credibility.

The Cancún decisions on the long-term cooperation under the Convention and on further commitments for Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol now provide a good basis for the continuation of the negotiation process towards the more ambitious binding objectives to be dealt with at COP17. They also provide the basis for work to continue on the Kyoto provisions without a gap, as the documents explain, between the first and second commitment periods.

The call for deeper emission cuts, included in the work of our Commission and our International, are reflected in the decisions of the COP16 recognising the need for deep cuts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions so as to limit the increase in global average temperature to a maximum of 2C above pre-industrial levels and to include in the context of the first review (2013-2015) the goal of an average temperature rise of 1.5C on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge. To achieve the lowest levels indicated by the IPCC it was recognised in Cancún that it would require Annex 1 Parties as a group to reduce emissions in a range of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Annex 1 Parties were urged to raise the level of ambition of emission reductions to be achieved by them individually or jointly. The Conference also agreed that Parties should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. COP16 recognised that addressing climate change required a paradigm shift towards building “a low carbon society” as stated in the title of our Commission’s report published in 2009.

Cancún recognised the contribution to mitigation efforts by developing countries in accordance with the Convention, highlighting that these could be enhanced depending on the provision of finance, technology and capacity-building support provided by developed countries. It reaffirmed – as we did at our Budva Council meeting - that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and over-riding priorities of the developing countries and that their share of global emissions will grow to meet their development needs, agreeing that these countries will take nationally appropriate mitigation actions in the context of sustainable development supported and enabled by technology, financing, and capacity-building, aimed at achieving a deviation in emissions relative to ‘business as usual’ emissions in 2020.

In addressing issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to conservation, a major concern among our priorities, the Conference encouraged developing countries to contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector to reduce emissions from deforestation and from forest degradation, and called for the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks and the sustainable management of forests. It requested that developing countries, in the context of the provision of adequate and predictable financial resources and technical and technological support, develop national strategies or action plans, national forest reference emission levels or alternative interim measures, as well as robust and transparent national forest monitoring systems. Urging developed countries in particular to support through multilateral and bilateral channels the development of national strategies or action plans, policies and measures and capacity-building, the Conference requested that the AWG-LCA explore financing options for the implementation of national action plans.

In terms of measurement, reporting and verification (MRV), the COP16, along with significant advances in setting up new provisions for developed countries to provide enhanced financial, technological and capacity-building support for mitigation actions of developing countries, broke new ground in deciding to subject internationally supported mitigation actions to international measurement, reporting and verification, as argued by the SI Commission, in accordance with guidelines to be developed under the Convention. It further decided that domestically supported mitigation actions will be measured, reported and verified domestically in accordance with general guidelines to be developed under the Convention.

Concerning the need to deepen scientific and technological cooperation between developed and developing countries in regard to climate change, an area highlighted by the SI Commission’s report and reiterated at its meeting in Mexico, the Cancún conference decided to establish a Technology Mechanism to facilitate the implementation of technology development and transfer in support of action on mitigation and adaptation, under the guidance of and accountable to the Conference of the Parties.

In regard to the call made by our Commission to define a multilateral and transparent framework to put into place the proposal of Copenhagen to create a Green Fund mobilising USD 100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries, and in the short term USD 30 billion for the period 2010-2012, the Cancún decisions, recognising the commitment of developed countries in that sense, established a Green Climate Fund as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention. This Fund would be governed by a board of 24 members comprising an equal number from developing and developed countries with the World Bank serving as a trustee for an interim period of 3 years.

Another matter addressed by the SI Commission in Mexico in discussions with the host government of COP16, with President Calderón and ministers of his cabinet, was the question of the rules of procedure of the Conference, that the consensus sought in the Conference should not be regarded as unanimity as that would imply a right to veto by any single state. As it happened, one country in the Conference did not support the set of agreements put forward, while all others concurred, and rightly they were consequently approved.

The crucial struggle of humanity on climate change and the efforts of the Socialist International for a world that is more just, more equitable and more respectful of the environment have regained hope following Cancún.

Luis Ayala
Secretary General of the Socialist International


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