U.N. Cancún Climate Conference Can Spur Momentum Toward Global Climate Deal, National and Regional Actions

The United Nations climate conference which begins here today, needs to restore momentum toward a global climate agreement, even as many nations are embarking on their own domestic and regional efforts to curb climate change rather than awaiting a global deal, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a leading U.S. environmental group.

Environmental groups — and the Parties themselves — have tempered expectations for the Cancún climate summit after last year’s hyped meeting in Copenhagen concluded with countries making only non-binding commitments in the conference’s final hours.

“Despite the lowered expectations this year, it’s critical to remember that Cancún is an opportunity for countries to move forward on critical climate change issues,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, managing director of EDF’s international climate policy. “There is still positive progress to be made on curbing deforestation, increasing transparency, and financing climate change mitigation activities.”

However, as negotiators continue to work toward an overall agreement in the UNFCCC forum, nations are not waiting on an outcome from the U.N. before starting to take their own domestic and regional actions.

“While the U.N. will continue to be the preferred forum for reaching a global deal, the good news for a planet that can’t wait is that a parallel process is emerging at national and state levels, with countries and regions developing their own paths forward through domestic actions and bilateral and multilateral deals to curb climate change,” Haverkamp said.

Since last year’s Copenhagen conference, there are clear signs that parties still are interested in reaching an agreement within the U.N. process. Cancún is their opportunity to show they can devise a way forward despite continuing disagreements over some of the fundamental issues.

EDF cited three critical issues the conference needs to address to move forward:

1. Implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

REDD+ policies have the best chances of advancing at Cancún of any of the climate effort,” said Haverkamp. “But a major consideration in developing REDD+ must be indigenous peoples, who are the best-suited to monitor and protect their land from deforestation. The REDD+ language needs to strengthen protections for indigenous peoples, increase the role of stakeholders in the negotiating process and provide greater clarity on technical issues in establishing baselines for emissions and plans for implementing REDD.”

2. Launch comprehensive and transparent monitoring, reporting and verification and reporting (MRV) systems that may be used in bilateral and regional agreements.

“Experience shows that nations often are willing agree to more comprehensive inspection and verification systems on a bilateral basis than in a broader multilateral context,” said Haverkamp. “We encourage negotiators to launch a process in Cancún to develop an international framework for monitoring, verification and reporting that can simultaneously be used by countries pursuing bilateral and regional approaches.”

3. Establish transparency and accountability for climate financing efforts in developing nations, whether the sources are public or private.

“It is clear from the Advisory Group on Finance report that getting to $100 billion per year in climate funding is possible, though it will require serious political will and incentives, and a price of at least $20-$25 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020,” Haverkamp said.

She added, “Direct public finance will be necessary to spur private finance, but regardless of the source, there must be transparency and accountability in how the funds are generated, allocated, and spent.

“We must recognize that eventually it is private capital, the engine of global growth, that will shape the new carbon constrained global economy,” said Haverkamp.

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