x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UN talks approve climate change action

UN-led talks have approved the first part of an agreement on fighting climate change, including a US$100 billion fund to help poorer states.

CANCUN, MEXICO // In the early hours of today in Cancun, Mexico, delegates from 194 governments agreed on wide-ranging measures – including emissions reductions for wealthy states and a US$100 billion fund to help poorer states – to fight climate change.

The deal, however, did not shed light on 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.

Among the key points of the Cancun Agreement were:
- Rich states should reduce emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020
- A US$100bn fund will be established by 2020 to help poor states combat the effects of global warming

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

“We wish to state for the record that there is no consensus for the approval of this deciision,” said Pablo Soln, Bolivia’s lead climate negotiator.

After several rounds of discussions, he reiterated: “This decisions 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 as to how exactly developed countries would cut emissions. The negotiating text lacked clauses that stipulated penalties if targets were not achieved.

The vast majority of countries offered support.

"A new era in international cooperation in climate change has begun," the Mexican foreign secretary Patricia Espinosa told the talks.

A year after the chaotic Copenhagen summit, Ms Espinosa won wide praise for steering the talks and seeking consensus on building blocks to a future climate treaty. The Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh even called her a "goddess."

The Australian climate change minister Greg Combet called the deal a "historic step forward."

The chief US negotiator Todd Stern said the deal "while not perfect, is certainly a good basis for moving forward," voicing hope it would "put the world on a more hopeful path toward a low-emissions and sustainable future."

In a key area, the agreement set up a "Green Climate Fund" to administer assistance to poor nations, which many experts say are already suffering more floods and drought as temperatures steadily mount.

The fund will be steered by a board of 24 members chosen evenly from developed and developing nations. For the first three years, the new international organisation would be overseen by the World Bank – a point of controversy for some activists who distrust the Washington-based lender.

The European Union, Japan and the United States have led pledges of $100 billion a year for poor nations up to 2020, along with $30 billion in immediate assistance.

A broader issue is just how wealthy nations would raise the money, with some negotiators advocating levies on airplane and shipping fuel.


With agencies