What happened in Cancun?


This is video shows the key moment in Cancun where a climate ‘agreement’ was reached. Many news outlets hailed the meeting as a big success, and indeed there was an agreement, but how significant is it? Not so much. John Broder has a good piece in the NYT that summarizes what actually went on, below some of the key points:

  • The package known as the Cancún Agreements gives the more than 190 countries participating in the conference another year to decide whether to extend the frayed Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that requires most wealthy nations to trim their emissions while providing assistance to developing countries to pursue a cleaner energy future.
  • The agreement is not a legally binding treaty, but the success of these talks allows the process to seek a more robust accord at next year’s climate conference in Durban, South Africa.
  • The agreement sets up a new fund to help poor countries adapt to climate changes, creates new mechanisms for transfer of clean energy technology, provides compensation for the preservation of tropical forests and strengthens the emissions reductions pledges that came out of the last United Nations climate change meeting in Copenhagen last year.
  • “The Cancún agreement should be applauded not because it solves everything, but because it chooses not to: it focuses on those areas where the U.N. process has the most potential to be useful, and avoids other areas where the U.N. process is a dead end. The outcome does not change the fact that most of the important work of cutting emissions will be driven outside the U.N. process.”

Modest indeed! but more than Copenhagen. Andy Revkin has his own analysis and thoughts here, going into greater detail. One important aspect I will highlight is the shift of focus into adaptation, which within the logic of climate change, comes much closer to how the Church sees environmental issues: If you want to help the environment, help people, especially those who are most in need. Adaptation, more than mitigation and geo-engineering,  is the most direct way to do  exactly that.

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