by Angela Hotaling
The 2010 climate change conference in Cancun has stirred up lots of controversy. The conference started on November 29th, culminating on December 10th. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set emission reduction guidelines, will expire in December 2012 and there are pessimistic predictions for a legal continuation of the agreement.
Pessimism is a common theme of the media coverage overcastting the two week conference taking place in Cancun, Mexico. Last years summit in Copenhagen and its offspring, the Copenhagen Accord, has fallen short of making desired progress. There are many possibilities for what will come of all of this and those of us here who care about progress in climate change politics should really reflect upon the breadth of this issue.
According to a recent Washington Post article by Juliet Elperin, “the Copenhagen Accord has come under fire over the past 12 months as the procedural bickering that has dominated negotiations for years has reemerged.” The “procedural bickering” is not the only mountain that conference delegates have had to traverse. There has also been pressure on the U.S to make up for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, along with the uncertainty of whether or not other top emitters, like China and India, will sign on to reduce and pay for emissions. (As per yesterday's Times of India, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh was heralded for his "bridging gaps" in the climate talks in creating a $100 billion "Green Fund" to fight global warming.)
Based on a recent New York Times article by Lisa Friedman of ClimateWire, U.S delegates are concerned with “the failure this year of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, along with the election in November of a far more conservative House and Senate.”
John Broder of the New York Times discusses the worries of many with regard to the United States’ position in this conference and on global climate change politics in general. He says the U.S is in a “weak position;” however there are many who are deeply invested in these fights that believe progress is a definite outcome. Broder reported on Christina Figueres, the UNFCC’s executive secretary, who said, “We’re not going to solve the whole problem this year, but we can lock in bigger and better agreements every year. Multilateral negotiations such as this one involve not just solving an environmental problem but actually involve the transformation of economic patterns and the economic structure we have lived with for decades.”
Broder also indicated that there will probably be progress on other issues foundational to climate change legislation when he said, “slowing the destruction of forests, sharing technology to produce energy in less-destructive ways, helping poorer countries adapt to the inevitable changes to the climate and building a multibillion-dollar fund to further these goals.”
Funding underdeveloped countries’ switch to greener technologies is a big point of interest for issues like environmental justice. When we reflect on the vast importance of climate change and climate change politics, environmental justice becomes heavily important. Creating a fund that developed countries use to help developing countries grow sustainably is a big step in negotiation and cooperation worldwide.
What still remains problematic is the strong pessimism surrounding the conference and the overall skepticism that many conservatives are hardened to overcome. Focusing on the optimistic outcomes that could come out of the meeting in Cancun and how we might overcome a lot of the barriers is a good way to stay involved from the cold northeast. As for the conference, only time will tell if the actions taken will have any durable effects.