What to Expect at Climate Negotiations in Cancun This Year
U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern, briefing reporters yesterday in New York City after meetings with representatives from the world’s major economies, said he doesn’t expect a United Nations meeting scheduled for later this year to produce a binding climate treaty.
Stern said yesterday’s meeting was “productive,” but added that “no one is expecting or anticipating in any way a legal treaty to be done” at the November U.N. meeting in Cancun, according to the Associated Press.
The United Nations climate process has been marked by anticipation and disappointment. Last year’s much-ballyhooed negotiations in Copenhagen failed to produce a binding climate treaty. And the clock is ticking. The landmark Kyoto Protocol, which the United States did not sign, expires in 2012. The current negotiations are meant to lay the groundwork for a successor to the protocol, but right now it seems unclear exactly when such an agreement can be signed.
Why is all of this so important? In short, scientists say it’s essential for all major industrial nations to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, it doesn’t do anybody any good if some countries reduce their emissions and others continue to pump large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. Emissions don’t stop at a country’s borders.
There’s quite a bit of tension on this issue between various industrialized and non-industrialized nations. The key to coming to an agreement is developing rules that non-industrialized countries and major emitters can agree to. That has proven tricky so far.
The reason? It costs a ton of money to significantly reduce emissions; you’ve got to retrofit fossil fuel power plants, build new infrastructure and develop clean energy technology. The poorer countries argue that richer nation’s should take the lead on all that because they can afford it. The richer countries note however, that every country needs to commit to some level of emissions cut.