Was Cancun a success? Dr. Osterkorn discusses the COP16 outcome

Dr. Marianne Osterkorn, REEEP‘s Director General attended the Cancun conference and was recently quizzed on her thoughts about the outcome.

Looking at the Cancun Agreements, would you rate COP16 as a success or failure?

I’d say Cancun was a qualified success in that there was an agreement at all – albeit a fairly weak one.  This basic fact injects new life into the UNFCCC process at a critical juncture, and it eases the world slowly but steadily forward  towards a major international climate treaty.

If there had been no outcome in Cancun – which seemed perfectly conceivable in the run-up to the conference – this would have put a serious question mark over the entire UN-driven climate process.  Thankfully, that scenario has been avoided, and we have a relatively solid outcome.

In what way can you say the Cancun Agreements are solid?

There are several major steps forward here, most of which looked highly unlikely before Cancun.  There’s the deal for sharing administration of the $100bn climate adaptation fund , which puts serious money on the table for that purpose.  There was also very good progress on agreeing how to pay countries to curb deforestation.

There are steps forward on technology transfer, and in the fact that there will be international monitoring of emissions cuts.  And overall, looking at today’s trends and pledges made, it looks like emissions will in fact peak in 2020 and begin dropping for the first time since industrialisation.

So things are looking rosy?

Well, it’s not that simple either . . .
The combined national emissions pledges – and remember that these are only pledges, as opposed to anything legally binding – just don’t deliver the step-change needed to avert serious climate change.  I suppose the fact that nearly everyone agrees that this is the case is in itself a positive sign, but there must be more action.

Looking at the big picture, what would be your key “bullet points” summarising the outcome of Cancun, particularly as it relates to REEEP?

  • The door to a legally binding international treaty on climate change is firmly open.
  • Clear steps forward have been made in Cancun – and many of these steps seemed inconceivable just a few weeks ago.
  • Climate mitigation funding can now begin to live up to the “quick start” name.  For REEEP, the outlook is promising in that both renewable energy and energy efficiency will be vital to mitigation efforts.
  • Looking ahead to 2011, I’m now reasonably optimistic about the prospects for a real agreement in Durban.

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