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Decision Time Coming Soon at the Global Warming Negotiations in Mexico: Can you accept what is on the table?

Jake Schmidt

Posted December 4, 2010 in Solving Global Warming

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At the one week point of the global warming negotiations here in Mexico, countries face a critical decision.  In one week they will have to decide: can they accept the agreements that are on the table or not?  This isn’t just a simple decision about whether or not each country has negotiated hard enough, moved the other side far enough, or gotten the “best deal”.  This is a decision about whether countries want to “lock in” the emissions reduction commitments that countries made before and after Copenhagen and take tangible actions to improve the transparency of the actions all countries take to reduce their pollution.  Such an agreement would also help speed up the deployment of clean energy in developing countries, reduce the rate of deforestation, and help the most vulnerable adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

These are real and meaningful actions that could suffer a significant setback if countries don’t agree to concrete decisions next week. 

Real agreements on key issues are within reach – the table is getting set.  Over the course of this past week, my optimism has increased.  We’ve seen countries try to better understand the practical implications of the position of another country.  We’ve seen a spirit of compromise since there is no way that all countries can get everything that they want.  When negotiators have been able to get down to the practical implications of each of these issues, countries have gotten closer this week on key issues.  There are real differences that matter, but they aren’t insurmountable as long as there is a strong willingness of countries to move from their stated position towards a compromise. 

So this week we’ve seen countries begin to set the table on several of the important actions that can be accomplished at the global warming negotiations in Mexico.  These include progress on:

  • Transparency and accountability to ensure that all countries are taking the action that they committed to implement.  This system would also allow countries to get the recognition for their progress that they deserve (the “monitoring, reporting, and verification” and “international consultation and analysis” provisions).
  • Creation of a Global Fund for Climate which will help mobilize significant resources in a targeted way to aid developing countries in reducing deforestation emissions, deploying clean energy, and adapting to the impacts on climate change.
  • Establishing some parameters for global efforts to reduce deforestation emissions in developing countries to ensure that the funding has strong safeguards on biodiversity, social benefits, rights of indigenous peoples and communities, and preserves natural forests.   
  • Creating mechanisms to assist in helping deploy clean energy in developing countries by agreeing to create a “Technology Center” and “Networks” in different regions of the world.  This will help countries tap into key expertise and solutions on clean energy and energy efficiency so they can meet their energy needs in a manner which lowers global warming pollution.
  • Developing adaptation institutional arrangements to assist the most vulnerable people already feeling the impacts of climate change.  This will help the most vulnerable people around the world with the real threats to their survival and livelihood that will occur as a result of global warming.

A new draft negotiating text was released today that contains all the key elements for an agreement here in Mexico. The text released today sets the stage for an agreement next week, but only if countries find ways to compromise.  Narrowing down the differences that remain will not be easy. Not finding agreement next week would be a failure of leadership and creativity.

Decision time is quickly approaching for the most vulnerable countries and the “middle sized” countries.  So countries in Africa, the small island states, and some in Latin America and Asia must look at the table and decide: can they accept the offer on the table even if it isn’t perfect.  Some of the issues that are within reach of being partly resolved here in Mexico won’t necessarily be “on the table” next year.  At the end of the week countries won’t just be able to knock these agreements off the table and hope to pick up the agreements that they like next year.  There may not be a table next year or it might look very different than the options that are available today. 

These and other countries can’t afford to not take action now.  It isn’t a matter of “take it or leave it”.  Rather the choice is: “take what you can get now, make it deeper and tougher next year, and build the support for even greater action in the future.”  Real action on global warming is too important to not move forward here in Mexico.

Agreement can be reached next week, but only if…  Narrowing down the differences that remain will not be easy. Not finding agreement next week would be a failure of leadership and creativity. The countries gathered here must successfully address this critical challenge.

As the Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa (the President of this meeting) said today: “we are truly at the last stages of the negotiations here in Cancun”.

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Comments

Ellen DuellDec 6 2010 02:45 PM

I am thankful that you are there, that NRDC is well represented. The U.S.A. must take responsibility and must sign on with the commitment shown by Bolivia, Mexico and other more enlightened nations!

Lou GoldDec 7 2010 11:55 AM


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The dramatic reduction of deforestation in Brazil is very good news (indeed!) but it is important to note that the deforestation statistics refer only to total clearing (clear-cutting) and do not include forest degradation from fire and selective logging.

Recently, in part because landowners have been switching to logging smaller patches that are not defined as "deforestation" and because of other forms of back-country development, the result is that forest degradation has been surging and is an unreported but substantial source of carbon emissions.

Under the pressure of drought, selective logging, infrastructure development, small-scale fragmentation, etc, large areas of the Amazon are shifting from rainforests of timber to drier forests of tinder and approaching the really feared tipping point where much of the forest land shifts to savanna.

This shift has happen before in the history of Amazonia and has profound implications for the rainfall patterns across the nearby agricultural zones and for the global climate system.

Lou Gold
http://lougold.blogspot.com/2010/12/brazils-amazon-deforestation-falls-to.html

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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