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The Cancún conclusion

G-Online

Cancún shows international collaboration on climate change commitments is possible.

Deforestation

2011 is the International Year for Forests, and one decision at the recent UN meeting in Cancún will help deforestation through the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) program.

Credit: iStockphoto

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The first steps for some landmark global agreements on climate change were put in place at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancún, Mexico.

"We have moved away from the post-Copenhagen paralysis," says Claire Parker, senior climate change policy advisor with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"Developing countries can now see new money on the table which they can draw on to adapt to the impacts they're already facing and reduce emissions," said Parker.

Tony Mohr, climate change program manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation spoke with G-Online this week to discuss some of the outcomes of the meeting in Cancún.

"After Copenhagen, there were targets, but they weren't really part of the U.N. process, they were offside," says Mohr.

For the first time, emission reduction targets have been anchored within the U.N. process and requirements. In particular, there was a lot of excitement about the actions of China and the U.S.

"During Cancún, China made quite a bold move by saying that it would allow its already existing targets to be put into a U.N. treaty. And they did that before the eleventh hour, and that helped motivate the negotiations on quite a lot."

"The U.S. has every reason to renege on it's commitments that are made under the Copenhagen Accord because it couldn't get agreement on a cap and trade scheme in the U.S. - but they haven't done that, they've said that despite having setbacks on their own domestic front, they will honour their international commitments that they've already made."

Australia committed to reduce emissions to somewhere within the range of five to 25 per cent of the levels they were in the year 2000 by 2020.

"By many estimates - including that of Professor Ross Garnaut - our targets should really be at 15 per cent because there is already global action and there is good reason to lift that domestic target," says Mohr.

"Certainly, any carbon price that we put in place over the next couple of years we'll need to ramp up those initial reduction targets."

"If Australia doesn't put a price on pollution, the Australian Government estimates themselves are that our emissions will rise by 20 percent by 2020… we can't keep up this piecemeal fashion, as it won't actually pull down emissions fast enough."

A green fund

"One of the main outcomes at Cancún was the establishment of a climate change 'green fund' and getting that started," says Mohr.

"It's been agreed that funds will be set-up to help countries to adapt and help mitigate climate change. But beyond that… there's still a lot that hasn't been decided about it."

Mohr says that the green fund is "kind of like starting a bank but not knowing how you're going to get money deposited into it".

There is some talk that funds could be raised through placing levies on the international aviation and shipping sector.

Despite the need for fine-tuning, the green fund will ensure that there's money for developing countries to stop clearing land, and perhaps even to leapfrog some of the old technologies and encourage the uptake of renewable energies.

Money from the fund isn't expected to be available until 2012.

REDD+ helps forests out of the red

REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) will reward developing nations for protecting, restoring and sustainably managing forests. It's been hailed as one of the cheapest mechanisms to cut global emissions. Globally, deforestation contributes to 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

About US$4.5 billion has been promised so far, much of it by Norway. The forest-rich developing country of Indonesia has already committed to bold reductions in emissions from deforestation and degradation.

There are, however, some problems with REDD+ because it does not specify land tenure and legal rights, which could lead to an erosion of community rights.

Kyoto's second coming

There were discussions for a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, but this couldn't be decided upon.

Mohr says that there might need to be a new agreement that includes China and the U.S., and that's "one of the critical things that needs to happen next across the course of 2011".

Negotiators will be busy working towards a global deal at the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, in 2011.