The Cancun Agreements

Agreements were made. This is important. The process did not fail and the UNFCCC will continue in the long term quest to achieve internationally binding targets.

 I have seen several achievements consistently mentioned in the media. (1) Commitments made by global economies for 2020 were recognized/the Copenhagen Accord was adopted, (2) a global environmental fund was established, and (3) an agreement was reached on REDD+, improving protection of tropical forests. See What happened (and why): an assessment of the Cancun Agreements, by Robert Stavins from for a great summary of achievements. 

 There are a few important issues which have not been as readily reported…

 Indigenous People and REDD+: While Bolivia was the only state to object to REDD+  there were many interest groups protesting the language of the REDD+ agreement.  In fact, most protests regarding COP 16 were not related to the overall lack of binding commitments, but related to a specific provision in the REDD+ agreement regarding land tenure. Many indigenous groups worried that the new agreement, which requires monitoring and verification would affect their ability to continue their livihoods on lands that they have lived on for centuries but don’t actually ‘own.’ According to a popularly circulated pamphlet at COP 16 “Why REDD is Wrong,” “Over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for some aspect of their livelihoods, but only about 9 percent of the world’s forests are legally owned by forest-dependent and Indigenous communities. People without land rights have no legal power to influence REDD projects.”  There are other advocates who say that REDD+ agreements aren’t planned for any regions where these specific protestors are from.

From the Indigneous Environmental Network

Advocates of REDD also point to the fact that the Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention is the first document “Taking note of relevant provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”

Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry: The  loophole continues. During an earlier blog, I mentioned that there are several options on the table to decide how to account for forest management emissions during the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol including… (1)  Tuvalu proposed text to use the first commitment period as a mandatory historical baseline. (2)  The Africa Group proposed a compromise text which combines historical baselines with projected baselines and (3)  Developed countries propose a continuation of voluntary accounting.

Although not a surprise, it seems the developing countries “won” and now can set their own reference levels…The current text “Requests each Annex I Party to submit to the secretariat, by 28 February 2011, information on the forest management reference level.”

The Global Environmental Fund: While the fund has targets of over a 100 billion per year, many developing countries have not been receiving money already promised by developed countries. The World Bank will be the trustee for this fund, but the World Bank doesn’t have the best track record at delivering money in an efficient manner (see blog post President from Guyana wants his money).


The successes of Cancun are now widely reported and praised in the media: the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, positive text on REDD+, and the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period extended a lifeline until Durban next year. The parties agreed in spite of Bolivia’s objections that the texts did not do enough to counter climate change’s dangers.

The COP 16 in Cancun talks were a reversal of those at COP 15 in Copenhagen last year. Low expectations yielded surprising success here, whereas in Copenhagen high hopes were dashed. A tremendous amount of credit must be accorded the Mexican government. The facilities were well laid out and polished, access was not impeded, the shuttles ran on time, certainly Mexico’s efficient hosting and administering permeated every aspect of the working environment. As well, Pres. Calderón was deeply involved and troubleshooting intensely throughout.

I’ll post more about aspects of the experience later, for now I’m inserting pictures that I was able to capture of some of the memorable sights.

A group of young people count in whispers to the number of climate-change related deaths while individuals among them punctuate the chant with accounts of particular tragedies like flood and mudslide deaths

A protester jeers Japanese PM Naoto Kan's opposition to extending the Kyoto Protocol

Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala de Calderón is center at this empowerment of women climate change side event that said in fact the Convention was empowering women

A Green Climate Fund, says AWG-LCA Draft of 4 PM Today

Paragraph 102 in LCA Draft: Text Calls for Green Climate Fund

I fought off packs of wilding diplomats and dispatched with a “hey, wait a second” a sneaky fellow in a three-piece who cut in front of me and the 75 others behind me when I looked away for a moment while waiting in the building-long line to get my hot copy of the AWG-LCA (Advanced Working Group Long-term Cooperative Action) draft that was released late this afternoon. The “Green Climate Fund” is there at page 18, line item 102: “Decides to establish a Green Climate Fund, to be designated as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention under Article 11…” Magical words; of course the plenary hasn’t voted to adopt them or any of it just yet.

The Fund is to be governed by a 24-member board, 12 from developed nations and 12 from developing nations. There is to be an interim trustee: the WorldBank. The language says though, paraphrased in rough language, that the board calls the shots and the trustee is just holding the money. To consider the finance is one of the the main reasons I came down here, and these simple paragraphs middle of a dual-stapled 32 page handout are really exciting to me. I’ll see if I can snap a picture.

Now, nothing here says the Fund is to be $100 billion unto itself by 2020. But the document is very suggestive, given the Copenhagen Accord context and reference to “significant share of new multilateral funding,” that the fund is to be substantial. I’m pleased about it, of course perhaps someone will accidentally hit delete on the whole section.

There’s also the “Technology Mechanism” decision on page 20, at line item 117. That’s to come with a Technology Executive Committee, and –this is just wonderful– a “Climate Technology Centre and Network.” That’s good for now, I’ll evaluate this more later. Yes, like I say, my optimism about this could be entirely crushed later, but it seems like the incremental steps on funding and tech transfer could be successfully materializing. Kyoto Protocol negotiations are not doing as well. Not sure about REDD-plus.

NGO Panel Provides Analysis of and Insight into Negotiations

NGO Panel w. Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wildlife Federation, Climate Action Network

The NGO panel faulted some familiar parties for “throwing spanners in the [gears]” of the negotiations, and pointed out some new targets of criticism. The U.S. was faulted on some things like Green Climate Fund negotiations and uncalled-for quarreling about MRVS, but Canada and Russia and particularly Japan were faulted for endangering prospects for Kyoto Protocol successor or second period.

Raman Mehta of Climate Action Network laments U.S. obstruction w. regard to the Green Climate Fund. The U.S. wants a GEF-like (Global Environmental Facility) arrangement, he said, not anything new. Why do the same-old-same-old? There are plenty of random funds that have been around the block, but the Copenhagen Agreement said a new form of fund should be established, he said. I’ve heard previous analysis at the COP that the U.S pushes for a dominant role for the WorldBank.

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists reported the inside dope from negotiators that the U.S. and a few like-minded others have been playing a miserly bargaining game. “Holding hostages” he said, on the MRV (Measure/Report/Verify) terms, and causing problems on drafting a “Shared Vision” document. Meyer said decisions in one track are affecting the other tracks. How can the AWG-LCA go forward in the absence of AWG-KP agreements? The G-77 (large group of developing nations) won’t go along with it.

Masako Konishi of World Wildlife Fund and the others talked about the basis of recent strong criticism of Japan. They said it has taken a very hardline refusal on extending Kyoto, and it did this at a disastrously late date. If Japan had objected 6 months ago for instance, the other developed countries could have worked to overcome these difficulties. The surprise timing has poisoned the atmosphere. The Financial Times says Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan is “living in a fantasy,” Konishi said, holding up an orange-pink newspaper. The fantasy is that Japan can abandon the Kyoto Protocol without wrecking any global treaty overall. Japan’s position is that Kyoto only covers 27% of the world’s emissions, whereas Copenhagen Accord covers much more. “We need [both]” said Konishi.

Russia and Canada are also not going along with Kyoto Protocol negotiations. If the intention of any of this is to exert leverage on the United States, a panelist said, it will have the opposite effect. U.S. domestic politics will consider Japan’s refusal to continue Kyoto as just another excuse not to cut its own emissions

Jostling for Draft Texts at Azteca Expo Center at the COP

I wanted to get a copy of the revised proposals, latest draft texts, and so forth. So I gathered with the others at the documents counter. It was like stage-side at a Beyonce concert for a bit there, a lot of people jostling for position for these texts. There are various interpretations on what’s been going on, the bargaining stances of various parties, and some perhaps-justified fingerpointing, but few are really sure what the final products are going to be. So it was an intense crowd waiting for documents for a bit there. Particularly in demand, but not yet out, was the text for AWG-LCA. That’s the Long-term Cooperative Action one. AWG-KP (Kyoto Protocol) was less in demand. I got the latest there, will describe it later. I got the draft decision for the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism). Back in Ceiba Room at the plenary, it’s pretty near a full-house. There’s a buzz of anticipation. The VP just started speaking, here we go.

The Plenary Session at Ceiba Room, 12:15 pm 10 Dec. 2010

The open plenary meeting wrapped up in Ceiba room earlier, there’s another scheduled for three. No final text has been released. There’s a U.S. press conference in 10 minutes at Sol room, I’m hustling over.

Dan at 4th meeting of the COP

Nicholas Stern of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change talks about the impact of agriculture on deforestation

Bharrat Jagdeo – President of Guyana wants his money.

After committing a Guyanan forest the size of England, in exchange for a billion dollars from Norway, Jagdeo needs this $ to keep political will with his people. Norway delivered the money to the World Bank but it has yet to be delivered where needed. Jagdeo promised all indigenous people solar panels. He promised to accelerate the process of determining land tenure and promised the availability of grant funds to several communities. Jagdeo said, if this REDD+ project cannot work in Guayanaa where he does have the will to make this work, and with Norway as a generous partner, it will not work anywhere.

Students Protest REDD+ with REDD+ Herring

Indonesia #3 in emissions because of peatlands

I didn’t realize the significance of peatland carbon till George Soros (Founder, Open Society Foundations) broke it down with an example.

Vrilly Rondonuwu from the Republic of Indonesia, Ministry of Environment and Prof. Garvey

Indonesia has 1,000,000 acres of forest. ½ of this forest was logged. Not only was it logged, but canals were developed to float logs out of the forest. The water drained nutrients out of the peatland beneath the forest which subjected the forest to fire. Peatland can be 20m to 30m deep and is very carbon dense. The loss of this peatland has contributed to Indonesia being the number 3 carbon emitter after the US and China. When recently in Indonesia, Obama committed his support to Norway for partnering with Indonesia to protect the remaining peatland, but it is yet to be seen how the US will help finance these types of projects. Dan has been talking some about finance, this is the little I know about it. The US Center has had several side events related to fast start financing. The US claims they are “ramping up” financing for climate 300% and spending 10 times more on adaptation projects then previous years. The ramping up numbers are talking points that are repeated consistently esp. by Joe Alba.  Many observers claim this money is double counted from other aid programs. Johnathan Pershing responded to this by claiming it is unclear how to define “new & additional money” but that the US is spending more than last year. Supposedly they will spend 1.7 billion over the next 3 years, 250 million devoted to forestry projects, but the word on the street is that only 20% of committed and expected funds are available on the ground.

Rob Walton gets mixed reviews on Walmart’s progress

In a conversation with Achim Steiner (Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme) & Peter Seligmann (Chairman and CEO, Conservation International) Walton describes progress Walmart has made in the sourcing of their products.

Walmart UNEP & Conservation Intl. conversation

Given the focus on Indonesia at this COP, Walton describes how Walmart stopped sourcing palm oil from recently deforested areas – such as those in Indonesia. This started in England, based on consumer preference and now the same more sustainable suppliers are being used throughout the world. Walton also described how Walmart is no longer sourcing Brazillian meat from areas recently deforested.

I almost felt bad for the guy because as he walked off the stage, some guy yelled ‘make Walmart vegetarian” and then the media went after him because it is easy to raise cattle on recently deforested land for 80% of their life and then bring then to sustainable land at the point of sale. Obviously they can do more, but I think its nice they are making some baby steps. According to Walton, they thought they would go after low hanging fruit but ended up taking on the whole enchilada.