x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

$100bn a year for poorer states as Cancun climate consensus is reached

Key questions on how nations should share responsibility to avoid disastrous changes to the climate remained unanswered, but the adoption of the 'Cancun Agreements' represented real progress, experts said.

CANCUN // In dramatic early morning talks yesterday, delegates from 194 governments meeting in Mexico agreed on wide-ranging measures to fight climate change, including an endorsement of carbon capture and storage (CCS), and a US$100 billion fund for poorer states.

Key questions on how nations should share responsibility to avoid disastrous changes to the climate remained unanswered, and the future of the Kyoto Protocol was murky. But the adoption of the package, dubbed the "Cancun Agreements", represented real progress, experts said.

Among the key points of the agreement:

  • Rich states should reduce emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020.
  • A fund of US$30 billion a year will be established immediately between 2010 and 2012 to help poor states combat the effects of global warming.
  • By 2020, a US$100bn fund will be established for the same purpose.

Most important for the UAE, the summit agreed to make CCS, a technology that captures emissions and buries them, eligible for funding under a United Nations clean technology scheme. Until now, the programme has focused on renewable energy, energy efficiency and limiting the emissions from landfills. The proposal was submitted by Qatar in November.

Besides the UAE, it enjoys the support of Saudi Arabia and Norway as well as coal-dependent states such as Australia.

For several hours, Bolivia blocked progress on the deal, though the vast majority of countries insisted it should go ahead.

Pablo Soln, Bolivia's lead climate negotiator, said: "We wish to state for the record that there is no consensus for the approval of this decision." After several rounds of discussions, he reiterated: "This decision in our view does not represent a step forward, it is a step backwards."

His government, he said, did not want to commit to a deal that lacked details on exactly how developed countries would cut emissions. The negotiating text lacks clauses that stipulate penalties if targets are not achieved.

Bolivia also opposes a target of limiting warming to no more than two degrees Celsius. The emissions reductions proposed in the draft will not meet that modest goal, Mr Soln said.

Environmentalists said that although they agreed with Bolivia's position, some sort of agreement was better than nothing at all.

Sol Oyuela of the UK-based advocacy group Christian Aid, said: "It is a compromise deal. It is not a perfect deal."

However, still on the table is the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

The current treaty on climate obliges 37 industrialised states to reduce their emissions by 10 per cent from 1990 levels.

The first commitment period of those countries expires in 2012 and agreement on a second commitment period, a point particularly important for developing states, was not decided.

In addition, no emission cuts by developing countries, or by the United States, which did not sign the Kyoto pact, were agreed upon in Cancun.

Instead, all parties will "work towards identifying a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050" and to consider it at the next round of climate talks in Durban, South Africa, in 2011. The Durban summit should consider "a time frame for global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions based on the best available scientific knowledge".

The summit also saw the creation of the Green Climate Fund, which is to be worth US$100bn by 2020, though it was not established how the money would be raised. Tim Gore, of Oxfam International, said the fund "should ensure that life-saving finance will be delivered to those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change".

Wendel Trio, the climate policy director at Greenpeace International, said that "governments in Cancun have chosen hope over fear and put the world on a difficult but now possible-to-navigate path to a global deal to stop dangerous climate change."

Mr Trio said that the emissions pledges by developed countries are close to what scientists recommend, but that compliance needs to be more transparent.

"More would have been accomplished in Cancun," Greenpeace said, "if not for the negative influence of the United States, Russia and Japan."

The latter two refused to continue obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, while the United States "came to Mexico with feeble commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, despite being the world's highest historical emitter, watered down several important areas of agreement and put a successful outcome in doubt", Greenpeace said.

vtodorova@thenational.ae