Cancún Agreements: Historic Step Forward or Rushed Deal?

Abstract : Although 2010 was a make-or-break year for international climate change negotiations, delegates arrived in Cancún for the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) without much enthusiasm and with few expectations. After the disappointing outcomes of the previous COP in Copenhagen (COP 15), many feared that the UNFCCC would not be able to recover from yet another failure. But as the final hours of the Cancún conference ended in standing ovations and loud cheers, there was a collective sigh of relief symbolizing faith restored in the UNFCCC process and an overall acknowledgment that significant progress had been made. The Cancún Agreements garnered support from all but one of the Convention's 194 parties. This can largely be attributed to the COP president, Patricia Espinosa - Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, who focused first and foremost on building an effective, transparent and inclusive international process. Her skilful diplomacy was praised by both delegates and media, who rewarded her with deafening applause as the conference came to a close. The Cancún Agreements delivered two decisive texts, one on Long-Term Cooperative Action (LCA) and one on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, following the two negotiating tracks. The agreements materialized after much compromise by both developed and developing country parties and are considered as marking a "new era of international cooperation on climate change", as Mexican President Felipe Calderón emphasized. Even though technical details and legal issues - notably on a global goal for reducing global emissions by 2050 and a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol - have been deferred to further negotiations, the Cancún Agreements contain key political decisions which will guide and catalyze comprehensive work programmes and substantive discussions in 2011. But do they really constitute a step forward or are they just a rushed deal stemming from the pressure to reach a successful outcome? We look into this question here, focusing primarily on the outcomes for tropical forests and adaptation.
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Emilia Pramova, Bruno Locatelli. Cancún Agreements: Historic Step Forward or Rushed Deal?. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, Montpellier : CIRAD, 2011, 65 (307), pp.3-6. ⟨cirad-00699316⟩

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