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Previewing the Cancun Global Climate Talks



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Well, at least this time the organizers got smart and decided to hold their “global warming” confab in a place where snow wouldn’t mar their message. “Climatewire”:

To hear climate change negotiators describe it, this week’s U.N. global warming summit in Cancun, Mexico, is shaping up like a confab of homebuilders.

Delegates say they are “laying foundations,” setting up “frameworks” and installing the “building blocks” for a future treaty.

They might also need a bomb shelter. Analysts say a blast is ready to detonate, and it’s called the Kyoto Protocol.

“It is one of those issues that could blow up in a toxic way,” one British climate diplomat told ClimateWire.

As negotiators from 192 countries descend on the Latin American city, best known for its sandy, white beaches and spring break nightlife, many delegates still carry the bitterness of last year’s contentious climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the same time, participants insist, they spent much of 2010 trying to repair the rifts and are ready to get to work.

Most say the goal is a “balanced package”: that is, taking the promises that President Obama and other world leaders made in Copenhagen to cut carbon, create a global oversight system, protect tropical forests, infuse vulnerable countries with cash and help spur low-carbon growth around the world and trying to craft the formal U.N. decisions that will make those things happen.

Building blocks or stumbling blocks?

It’s not an easy task. America’s priority is establishing transparency measures that China and others will agree to. Developing countries say they are focused on setting in motion funding for vulnerable countries — something America won’t move on until China agrees to some form of reliable third-party inspection system.

Looming over all of that is the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark 1997 treaty that mandated that industrialized nations slash the greenhouse gas emissions heating up the planet.

“There are clearly sharp divisions over the ultimate legal form of an agreement,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“What the negotiating mandate should be could be a stumbling block at the end of the day,” Meyer said. “I think [negotiators] are trying to think of a way to finesse this, but it could be one of the scenarios you see play out Friday night into Saturday morning on the last night [of the conference]. That would be a dire scenario, but it could come to play.”

The United States signed but never ratified Kyoto because the treaty didn’t demand that China or other emerging powers also cut emissions. But the failure this year of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation — along with the election in November of a far more conservative House and Senate — make it less likely, analysts say, that America will ratify any U.N. treaty.

U.S. envoy Todd Stern certainly isn’t buying that. At a recent press conference, he said that America is “standing behind the pledge” of cutting emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels in the next decade and said the long-term goal is a legally binding treaty that allows industrialized and developing countries to take different types of targets but holds them all to the same legal requirements.

Developing countries, though, are openly suspicious.

The rest here.



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