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Summary: Cancun Climate Change Conference

Download the summary (pdf)

 

Sixteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
and
Sixth Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol

November 29-December 10, 2010
Cancún, Mexico

Agreeing to put aside for now issues that have stalemated international climate talks for years, governments meeting at the U.N. Climate Conference in Cancún, Mexico, approved a set of decisions anchoring national mitigation pledges, and taking initial steps to strengthen finance, transparency, and other elements of the multilateral climate framework.

In large measure, the Cancún Agreements import the essential elements of the Copenhagen Accord into the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including mitigation pledges and operational elements such as a new Green Climate Fund for developing countries and a system of “international consultations and analysis” to help verify countries’ actions. Agreement hinged on finding a way to finesse the more difficult questions of if, when, and in what form countries will take binding commitments. The final outcome leaves all options on the table and sets no clear path toward a binding agreement.

Click here for a complete summary of the Cancún Agreements.
 

The summary was written by Elliot Diringer, Vice President for International Strategies, with contributions from International Fellows Kate Cecys and Namrata Patodia Rastogi.


Additional International Reports and Policy Briefs related to COP 16.

Cancún Can

This post orginally appeared in the Opinio Juris blog.

Oh, how much difference a year — and lower expectations — make!

The BBC report on the Cancún meeting declared that “if Copenhagen was the Great Dane that whimpered, Cancún has been the Chihuahua that roared.” Never mind that the Great Dane’s whimper was about the same decibel level as the Chihuahua’s roar. Last year, expectations were sky high for a new legal agreement that would extend, complement or replace the Kyoto Protocol, so the non-binding Copenhagen Accord was a major disappointment. This year expectations for the Cancún Conference were extremely low, so an outcome that essentially incorporates the Copenhagen Accord into the UNFCCC process is seen as a big win.

Statement: Cancún Climate Talks Take Steps to Strengthen Climate Action

Statement of Elliot Diringer
Vice President, International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

December 11, 2010

The Cancún agreement demonstrates that the multilateral climate process can produce tangible results. For too long, parties have acted as if it’s binding or nothing and we’ve gotten nothing. Finally we’re seeing some modest but real steps to strengthen climate action.
 
Ultimately we need a comprehensive binding climate treaty, but there are fundamental differences among countries over how and when we get there. Thankfully they were willing to put those differences aside for now and agree on incremental steps that will deliver stronger action in the near term and lay the foundation for binding commitments down the road.

The Cancún agreement formalizes the fundamental elements of the Copenhagen Accord and starts to implement them. Key among these are a stronger support system for developing countries, including a new climate fund, and a stronger transparency system to better assess whether countries are keeping their promises. Both will build trust and confidence, which will help produce stronger action and agreements in the future.

The agreement also incorporates the targets and actions pledged earlier under the Copenhagen Accord. This marks the first time all of the world’s major economies have made explicit mitigation pledges under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change since its negotiation nearly two decades ago.

Much work remains ahead to strengthen countries’ efforts and fully implement these new mechanisms. But a year after the crisis of confidence in Copenhagen, the Mexican government deserves real credit for resuscitating the multilateral climate effort. Cancún has restored trust and, hopefully, represents the start of a new, more productive phase in the global effort.

Cancún Climate Conference Resources

Pew Center Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

Why Cancún Delivered

This post also appears in National Journal's Cancún Insider blog.

CANCUN – So what accounts for Cancún’s success?  I can see a number of factors that thankfully conspired to produce the most tangible progress in the U.N. climate talks in years.

The first, without doubt, is the savvy and skill of the Mexican diplomatic corps. The Mexicans have been widely praised for doing their utmost to keep the negotiations inclusive and above-board. Less noted, but equally important, was the firm hand they maintained in the crucial closing hours. Taking the very practical view that consensus does not mean strict unanimity, they refused to allow a vocal minority to impede the will of the vast majority. In short, they ensured that everyone had their say, even if all didn’t get their way.

The Challenge to Change: COP16 Survey on Climate and Communications

Download the fact sheet (pdf)

Download the presentation of the survey findings (pdf)

A survey released by the government of Mexico and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change reveals COP16 attendees’ attitudes on key issues when it comes to climate change, including the biggest barriers to action, the most trusted and effective sources for information on the issue, and the need for activating the general public. Nearly all those gathered for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun believe that real international action on climate change will not happen without strong public support, yet most also believe that the general public doesn’t understand the meaning of “climate change.”

Running out of time

When it comes to the human impact on climate change, COP16 attendees say that we are already suffering some irreversible impacts.

  • The majority (56%) believe that irreversible harm has already been done to the planet.
  • Over half (54%) say that we are currently at a standstill in our efforts to limit human influences on climate change.
  • Eight in ten conference participants (83%) believe that countries will only undertake ambitious efforts to address climate change once they are actually suffering from the real consequences.
  • Nearly nine in ten (88%) agree that if we do not address climate change now, it will eventually become a trigger for global conflict and possibly war.

Perceived economic impact viewed as top barrier to increased engagement

  • Nine in ten conference participants (90%) agree that the global recession has made nations less willing to invest in addressing climate change, with over half (54%) saying that they strongly agree.
  • COP16 attendees report that the biggest barriers to governments taking effective joint action on climate change are the unwillingness to jeopardize industrial growth (64%) and take political risks at home (63%).
  • This sentiment is more prominent in developed countries than in developing countries.

More involvement needed from all stakeholders

When asked what constituencies need to be more involved, respondents ranked the general public number one, ahead of heads of state, business, NGOs and UN organizations.

  • The overwhelming majority of conference participants (94%) agree that climate change initiatives can only be effective with broad support from governments, business, NGOs, scientists and the public, with a full seven in ten (70%) strongly agreeing with this statement.
  • Conference participants report that there needs to be considerably more involvement by all parties, particularly the general public (84%), local community leaders (83%), and country leaders (83%).
  • Participants from developing countries are significantly more likely than those from developed countries to believe environmental NGOs and global organizations (UN, World Bank, WHO) should be more involved in climate change initiatives.

Engaging the public viewed as essential to effective action on climate change

Although many COP16 attendees deem the activation of the general public as important to elevating the issue of climate change, attendees agree that the public currently has a limited understanding of climate change and needs more education on the issue.

  • Nearly all conference participants (94%) agree that real action on climate change will never be made at the international governmental level without strong public support, with nearly two-thirds (64%) strongly agreeing with this statement.
  • However, six in ten conference participants (58%) believe that the general public does not understand the meaning of “climate change.” Only 5% said the public understands it “very well.”

Media play a crucial role in activating the general public

The survey revealed mixed views on the role of the mainstream media.

  • Over three-quarters of COP16 attendees (76%) report that the most effective means of reaching the general public to communicate about the need for global action to reduce the human impact on climate change is through mainstream media like television, newspapers, and magazines. Social media is also viewed as an effective means of reaching the public by nearly half of survey respondents (46%).
  • Yet, when asked to identify “the most trusted voices on the scale and impact of climate change globally,” only 24% named the media. A strong majority (87%) blamed unskillful media and opinion leaders for a lack of public understanding of climate change science.
  • Despite recent controversies over climate science, most respondents (66%) identified scientists as among the most trusted voices, well ahead of global organizations like the UN (42%), NGOs (41%), governments (24%) and business leaders (13%).

Key to effective change

  • The majority of conference participants believe that the most compelling cases for the need to address climate change are stories of human suffering due to extreme weather such as drought or floods (65%) and evidence that climate change will negatively affect the economy (54%).

About the Survey

The government of Mexico and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change commissioned a survey that gathered insights from COP16 attendees from around the world on their attitudes toward climate change. The study of 503 COP16 participants who completed the survey was conducted via iPad and paper surveys between November 27-30, 2010. Survey respondents included NGO representatives, government delegates, business leaders, bloggers, climate change experts, and think tank representatives who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. Only credentialed COP16 participants were included in the survey.

Back to Cancún - COP 16 page

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Cancun Conferees See Poor Public Understanding as Key Obstacle to Strong Action on Climate Change

Press Release 
December 3, 2010 
Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

Cancun Conferees See Poor Public Understanding as Key Obstacle to Strong Action on Climate Change

CANCUN, MEXICO– Nearly all those gathered for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun believe that real international action on climate change will not happen without strong public support, yet most also believe that the general public doesn’t understand the meaning of “climate change,” according to a survey this week by the Government of Mexico and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

More than 500 accredited COP16/CMP6 attendees from around the world – including government delegates, nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives, experts, journalists and business leaders – participated in an iPad survey of attitudes on climate change.

The results were presented at the Climate Change Communication Forum co-sponsored by the Mexican government and the Pew Center, which took place at the Hotel Grand Velas of the Rivera Maya, on Friday, 3 December, 2010.

“Quite clearly, effective communication is one of the keys to mobilizing a strong global climate effort,” said Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.

“We need to better understand how the public views the issue, and how best to communicate both the urgency and the practicality of strong action. We believe this new survey and today’s forum will contribute to a clearer understanding of the communication challenges we face.”

Survey participants included roughly equal numbers from developed and developing countries. Nearly all (94%) agreed that “without strong public support, real action on climate change will never be made at the international governmental level.” When asked what constituencies need to be more involved, respondents ranked the general public number one, ahead of heads of state, business, NGOs and UN organizations.

Yet 58% said that the general public does not understand the meaning of “climate change” well or at all. Only 5% said the public understands it “very well.”

“These findings underscore the tremendous gap between the critical need for action and the public’s limited understanding of the issues at hand,” said Pew Center President Eileen Claussen.

“All of us – governments, experts, advocates and business leaders – need to do a much better job of explaining to the public both the stakes and the opportunities presented by
climate change,” stated Ms. Claussen.

The survey also revealed mixed views on the role of the mainstream media. Respondents ranked mainstream media like television, newspapers and magazines as the most effective means of communicating to the general public the need for global action. Yet when asked to identify “the most trusted voices on the scale and impact of climate change globally,” only 24% named the media. A strong majority (87%) blamed unskillful media and opinion leaders for a lack of public understanding of climate change science.

Despite recent controversies over climate science, most respondents (66%) identified scientists as among the most trusted voices, well ahead of global organizations like the UN (42%), NGOs (41%), governments (24%) and business leaders (13%).

Additional key findings from the survey:

Running out of time

When it comes to the human impact on climate change, COP16 attendees say that we are already suffering some irreversible impacts.

  • The majority (56%) believe that irreversible harm has already been done to the planet.
  • Over half (54%) say that we are currently at a standstill in our efforts to limit human influences on climate change.
  • Eight in ten conference participants (83%) believe that countries will only undertake ambitious efforts to address climate change once they are actually suffering from the real consequences.
  • Nearly nine in ten (88%) agree that if we do not address climate change now, it will eventually become a trigger for global conflict and possibly war.

Perceived economic impact viewed as top barrier to increased engagement

  • Nine in ten conference participants (90%) agree that the global recession has made nations less willing to invest in addressing climate change, with over half (54%) saying that they strongly agree.
  • COP16 attendees report that the biggest barriers to governments taking effective joint action on climate change are the unwillingness to jeopardize industrial growth (64%) and take political risks at home (63%).
  • This sentiment is more prominent in developed countries than in developing countries.

More action needed from all stakeholders

  • The overwhelming majority of conference participants (94%) agree that climate change initiatives can only be effective with broad support from governments, business, NGOs, scientists and the public, with a full seven in ten (70%) strongly agreeing with this statement.
  • Conference participants report that there needs to be considerably more involvement by all parties, particularly the general public (84%), local community leaders (83%), and country leaders (83%).
  • Participants from developing countries are significantly more likely than those from developed countries to believe environmental NGOs and global organizations (UN, World Bank, WHO) should be more involved in climate change initiatives.

Key to effective change

  • The majority of conference participants believe that the most compelling cases for the need to address climate change are stories of human suffering due to extreme weather such as drought or floods (65%) and evidence that climate change will negatively affect the economy (54%).

About the Survey

The government of Mexico and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change commissioned a survey that gathered insights from COP16 attendees from around the world on their attitudes toward climate change. The study of 503 COP16 participants who completed the survey was conducted via iPad and paper surveys between November 27 -30, 2010. Survey respondents included NGO representatives, government delegates, business leaders, bloggers, climate change experts, and think tank representatives who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. Only credentialed COP16 participants were included in the survey.

About Pew Center on Global Climate Change

The US-based Pew Center on Global Climate Change brings together business leaders, policy makers, scientists, and other experts to bring a new approach to a complex and often controversial issue. Our approach is based on sound science, straight talk, and a belief that we can work together to protect the climate while sustaining economic growth. Over the past ten years, the Pew Center has issued more than 100 reports from toptier researchers on key climate topics such as economic and environmental impacts and practical domestic and international policy solutions. The Pew Center plays an active role in bringing people together to discuss policy frameworks and workable solutions to climate change.

Nearly all those gathered for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun believe that real international action on climate change will not happen without strong public support, yet most also believe that the general public doesn’t understand the meaning of “climate change,” according to a survey this week by the Government of Mexico and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Beyond Binding or Bust

This post also appears in National Journal's Cancún Insider blog

CANCUN – We’ll see tomorrow here in Cancún whether countries are ready to move past binding-or-nothing in the international climate effort.

For the past five years, negotiators have deadlocked over whether and how to extend a legally binding climate regime beyond 2012, when the first Kyoto targets expire. In that time, over countless sessions, the U.N. climate talks have produced little in the way of tangible results.

Cancún is an opportunity for a more sensible approach.

Evolutionary Progress in Cancún

This post also appears in National Journal's Cancún Insider blog.

CANCUN – We need a new paradigm – one that recognizes the importance of a binding treaty, but appreciates that getting there will take time. 

For 15 years, the primary thrust of the UNFCCC negotiations has been establishing and extending a legally binding regime: the Kyoto Protocol.  This preoccupation has probably precluded more modest steps within the UNFCCC. Worse, it has produced a perennial state of stalemate.

In a new report we are releasing today, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change calls for a more “evolutionary” approach. Looking at other multilateral regimes, the report shows how most have evolved gradually over time: incremental steps build parties’ confidence in the regime and one another, leading to a greater willingness to take on stronger obligations.

Cancún Side Event: Towards a Binding Climate Agreement

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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Presentations and discussion of new a Pew Center report exploring the evolution of multilateral regimes and implications for the future of the climate change regime.

Pew Center COP 16 Side Event - TOWARDS A BINDING CLIMATE AGREEMENT
Cancún, Mexico
December 6, 2010

8:15 – 9:45 pm
Cancunmesse, Room MONARCA

Presentations and discussion of new a Pew Center report exploring the evolution of multilateral regimes and implications for the future of the climate change regime. Presenters include:

  • DANIEL BODANSKY Professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University
  • ELLIOT DIRINGER Vice President, International Strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Download the presentation slides

Discussants include:

  • HARALD WINKLER Associate Professor, Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town
  • SEBASTIAN OBERTHUR Academic Director, Institute for European Studies
  • JOAN MACNAUGHTON Senior Vice President, Power and Environmental Policies Alstom Power Systems 

Access the Report

Related Press Briefing Webcast

Back to Cancún - COP 16 page

New Report Urges Evolutionary Approach to Strengthening Global Climate Effort

Press Release
December 6, 2010

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

New Pew Center on Global Climate Change Report Urges “Evolutionary” Approach
to Strengthening the Global Climate Effort
Sees Progress Through Incremental Steps Within & Outside UNFCCC

CANCUN, MEXICO– Governments should affirm the goal of a new legally binding climate change agreement, but focus for now on incremental steps that can deliver stronger action, resources and transparency even in the absence of binding commitments, according to a new report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change released today at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico.

The report, The Evolution of Multilateral Regimes: Implications for Climate Change, examines why and how most international regimes evolve gradually, rather than through dramatic step-changes.  It outlines evolutionary pathways within and outside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that can promote stronger near-term action while building a sturdier foundation for a future binding agreement.

 “The big-bang approach isn’t working and it’s time for a more pragmatic paradigm,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  “We need to accept that many major economies aren’t ready for binding commitments and won’t be for some time.  An evolutionary approach lets us move forward now with concrete steps that strengthen the global effort and make a binding agreement more likely down the road.”

The report examines well-established regimes such as the World Trade Organization, the Montreal Protocol, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to identify patterns and dimensions of regime evolution.  It traces the evolution of the climate regime to date, and outlines several lines along which it may evolve in the future.  

Within the UNFCCC, an evolutionary path would prioritize institutional development that would help set the stage for a later legal agreement, the report argues.  Key incremental steps include a stronger support system for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, and a more fully elaborated system for measuring, reporting, and verifying countries’ actions. Advancing these elements could greatly strengthen the UNFCCC’s role as an international forum for action, as opposed to negotiation.

Complementing evolution within the UNFCCC, the report outlines how the broader climate regime may also develop through forums such as the Montreal Protocol, International Maritime Organization, and International Civil Aviation Organization. By helping to diversify the portfolio of international climate change efforts, non-UNFCCC actions would help to reduce the risk of policy failure.  

The report is authored by Daniel Bodansky, professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and Elliot Diringer, the Pew Center’s vice president for international strategies.   The full report is available at www.c2es.org/publications/report/evolution-multilateral-regimes-implications-climate-change.  New Pew Center policy briefs on the issues under negotiation in Cancún are also available at www.c2es.org/international/negotiations/cancun/cop16

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The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

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