Roadmap to Cancun

9 Jun 2010
Alexander Stathakis, climate change expert, and Martina Linnenluecke, lecturer at UQ Business School, on the challenges of the next UNFCCC Conference. The next Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC is to be held at the end of this year in [Cancun, Mexico| (COP16). The signatories to the UNFCCC have met annually since 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. It is expected that this year's Conference will address and resolve at least some of the shortcomings of the outcome in Copenhagen. The last Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen (COP15) was supposed to conclude negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol and ratify a legally-binding long-term agreement to take effect at the end of 2012, following on from current commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. It didn't. What was achieved was the Copenhagen Accord, essentially an update of the Bali Roadmap developed in 2007 (COP13). The Bali Roadmap set out a guiding framework for international negotiations on a Kyoto Protocol successor treaty. Already then it was acknowledged that a "delay in reducing emissions significantly constrains opportunities to achieve lower stabilization levels and increases the risk of more severe climate change impacts". While the Copenhagen Conference did not produce the highly anticipated post-2012 agreement, the Accord does recognise the urgency to achieve ambitious cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions. However, there still is debate about the emission reduction pledges put forward so far, and about the monitoring, verification and reporting of emissions and reduction claims. The Accord also addresses adaptation efforts to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects, as well as technology transfer, and deforestation and forest degradation. Ideally, Cancun would provide clear signals on how adaptation will be financed, and where and how investments will be made. Some mechanisms are already in place, such as the Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund, the World Bank Program on Climate Resilience, and the Global Environment Facility. Each of these will bring experiences and findings to the negotiations and help to determine what works and what does not. The first commitment on finance is the "fast track" investment of $30 billion over three years and a long-term commitment of $100 billion per year by 2020. A strengthening of technology transfer efforts which focus on the exchange and diffusion of technologies and technological cooperation across countries is key to a successful outcome in Cancun. The Copenhagen Accord establishes a Technology Mechanism for transferring emissions reduction and adaptation technologies to the developing world. There are still questions which remain to be resolved. For example, how can research capacities and governance structures in developing countries be enhanced to ensure a functioning transfer of technology and finances? Or how can equal attention to adaptation technologies and emission reduction technologies be ensured? And of course, there will need to be clear guidelines on roles, responsibilities and IP protection. In terms of reducing emissions from forest loss and degradation (REDD), the challenge for Cancun is to develop ambitious goals for reducing emissions from deforestation, the conservation of forests and the sustainable management of forest stocks. Issues to address here include the identification and understanding drivers of deforestation and how to appropriately monitor, verify and report REDD efforts. While the Copenhagen Accord did not deliver the expected breakthrough, it provides signals for progress towards a post-2012 agreement. It can be expected that critical decisions on the structure, content and design of the Kyoto Protocol successor will be made in the lead up to the Conference of Parties in Cancun. There will be numerous UNFCCC meetings before Cancun, which should provide the necessary foundation for a positive outcome in Cancun. The very least thing Cancun should achieve is ensuring sufficient support for least-developed countries and countries most affected by climate change, as well as clear and transparent commitment from all Parties to the UNFCCC to tackle climate change. Ms Linnenluecke and Mr Stathakis regularly comment on climate change related events and developments on their blog "Organizations, Climate Change & Adaptation", which can be found here.