Climate talks deal in Cancun - experts respond
Over the weekend, delegates at UN climate talks adopted the 'Cancun Agreements', laying the groundwork for an extension to Kyoto commitments and reviving fading hopes for an outcome from international climate negotiations.The package of agreements includes a further commitment to keep average global temperature increases to below 2°C and financial support for developing countries to reduce their emissions and develop new green technology.
Comments from local and
overseas experts are below.
Associate Professor Euan Mason, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury comments:"The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme is welcome as a way to reduce deforestation, which has been estimated to contribute up to 17% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, but it further confuses the definition of a carbon credit.
"Carbon credits awarded for not doing something are quite different from those awarded for sequestering carbon dioxide.
"Take, for example, a
company that emits 100,000 tonnes of CO2-e/year through
deforestation. The company could purchase 100,000 units
obtained from carbon sequestration and then proclaim that it
is greenhouse gas (GHG) neutral. Alternatively, it could
reduce emissions by 50,000 tonnes/annum and under REDD+ earn
50,000 carbon credits. It could then use those 50,000 carbon
credits to offset the balance of its emissions and proclaim
that it is GHG neutral. In the former case the company is
truly GHG neutral while in the latter case it has net
emissions of 50,000 CO2-e/annum."
Prof Martin Manning, Director - Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington comments:
"In the meantime changes in our climate have not slowed down and 2010 is clearly the warmest year on record in the northern hemisphere, even though parts of Europe and Russia had extreme cold weather and very heavy snow in the first two months of the year. Bolivia has recently lost a major part of its water supply as glaciers disappeared even faster than climate scientists had expected, so it is not surprising that they were strongly critical of the outcome at Cancun. Their concern raises the question of whether developing a mutual approach for major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can keep up with the rates of change in our environment.
"Cancun also raised the issue of whether or not the Kyoto Protocol can continue its original aim of having the developed countries reduce emissions first and so lead the way into new technology. Japan has adopted a strong position against continuing with this protocol, despite the fact that Tokyo is putting together a plan for a 25% reduction in their own greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The argument is that China and the USA are responsible for far more emissions than are controlled under the Kyoto protocol, so a broader approach is now essential.
"There is very little coverage in the media of major moves coming from the private sector who also had a meeting in Cancun that strengthened collaboration on addressing climate change. The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), which most people will never have heard of, controls more than 15 trillion dollars in investment, more than the entire GDP of the United States, and they now propose to push substantially more capital investment into the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
"So while Cancun was a definite
improvement on the meeting a year earlier in Copenhagen,
there is still a need to quickly resolve major questions on
the policy side and to strengthen its links to the growing
potential for investments in new energy
technologies." Dr Chris Huntingford from the UK
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said:
The following comments were gathered by our colleagues at the UK and AusSMCs.
Dr Chris Huntingford from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said:"Cancun also implies emerging challenges for the scientific community. Much research on the climate system and its response to increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations has focused on general levels of global warming, and relatively broad-brush assessments of expected regional changes to weather patterns. However with funds set aside for adaptation to climate change, very precise assessments of how best to spend this are required. The monies must maximise the chances of continuity in water supplies, food security and the general safety of populations from other potential hazards such as sea-level rise or alterations to rainfall extremes.
verification has been discussed in Cancun, and this most
likely will first occur at the actual sources of
carbon-dioxide being released in to the atmosphere. However,
if this becomes a more general aspiration of future climate
change summits, then the use of satellites combined with
models of atmospheric dynamics will be needed. Such a system
will itself need verification of its accuracy, requiring
significant co-operation between different government
researchers and with the builders of satellite
Dr Roger Jones, Professorial Research Fellow in the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies at the Victoria University comments:
"The agreement at Cancun is more mature than any previous climate agreement. The parties have wisely concluded that having a process that can achieve an emissions target is more important than a target without process. The provision of US$30 billion fast start finance by 2012 and US$100 billion by 2020, and an agreed plan to co-ordinate adaptation internationally are all welcome. Although emissions targets are not a specific part of this agreement, the 2°C target for warming is maintained. An agreement to investigate a warming target of 1.5°C recognises the role of science in assessing the ongoing risk of climate change.
individual countries will continue to frustrate the setting
of substantially lower targets in those countries, e.g. in
both the US and Australia. However, we now have a process
that can turn the cost of abatement into the benefit of
avoided future damages. This will transform the economy and
allow successively lower targets to be achieved in time.
Globally, opponents of climate science and the UNFCCC treaty
process are very few but have undue influence in the press,
in pockets of industry and in politics. There is no place
for their views in the new economy." Dr Barrie
Pittock, CSIRO Honorary Fellow and former leader of the
CSIRO Climate Impacts Group comments:
Dr Barrie Pittock, CSIRO Honorary Fellow and former leader of the CSIRO Climate Impacts Group comments:"The press release from the UN Conference at Cancun is indeed good news. It indicates that all countries represented at Cancun are concerned to do something to reduce human-induced climate change. Both developed and developing countries recognise that there is an urgent problem and that action is needed. Indeed major developing countries are already developing renewable energy and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced.
"What it means for
Australia is that we, as one of the largest emitters of
greenhouse gases per head of population, should try harder
to reduce our emissions. It is in no country's long-term
interest to have serious climate change and sea-level rise.
We must all work together to achieve emissions reductions.
This is best achieved by making alternatives to the use of
coal and oil competitive through start-up subsidies and
other incentives so that these alternatives become
economically competitive with old technologies. We are
facing a technological revolution and need to get in the
forefront if we are to be winners."
Professor John Quiggin, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow in the school of economics at the University of Queensland comments:"The Cancun agreement delivers some modest progress, and gives governments the chance to recover from their failure at Copenhagen. In particular, it provides a process by which developed-country governments can formalise their commitments to emissions reductions targets. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the targets currently being proposed are sufficient to prevent dangerous global warming. However, the Agreement increases the chance of at least some significant mitigation effort being undertaken, and provides a framework for funding adaptation efforts in developing countries."
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