The Cancun Compacts: Nations of world choose hope in face of climate crisis

“Confidence is back,” announced Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon at the conclusion of climate talks in Cancun at 3 am. “Hope has returned.”

Restoring hopes crushed by the collapse last year of Copenhagen’s climate negotiations, the nations of the world have rediscovered consensus on addressing global warming pollution tonight in Cancun. Brad Johnson has the story.

The top challenge for negotiators has been to figure out a successor framework to the Kyoto Protocol, which failed to set limits on the pollution of the United States (because the Senate refused to ratify the treaty) and nations like China and India (as developing countries, they are exempt from Kyoto’s binding targets). In Copenhagen, these nations sacrificed consensus and multilateralism to forge a new framework for cleaning their economies.

As hosts of the 2010 conference, the Mexican government had to not only bring parties together to come to agreement on policy, but also to restore trust in global governance “” the concept that the world’s nations can work together as one on the problems that face all of humanity. (Not to be confused, unless you’re Glenn Beck or Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), with the entirely different concept of global government.) Could the nearly 200 nations of the world, from tiny islands to billion-person states, from oil-rich sheikdoms to Scandinavian states, trust each other enough to agree on a deal that included all nations?

Late Friday night, the representatives of these varied nations chose hope. With a roar of applause overwhelming one dissenting voice, they strongly endorsed a comprehensive document crafted under the leadership of the conference’s president Patricia Espinosa and the executive secretary Christiana Figueres. Countries from every corner of the world noted the mortal threat from destroying our atmosphere through fossil-fuel pollution and supported this international agreement:

South Korea: “We were warned, if we cannot achieve a balanced outcome, we’d be blamed by our children. I believe we have risen to the challenge.”

Kenya: “We plead with all to allow Cancun to send a message of hope to the world.”

Argentina: “It is really dangerous to delay any further. The compromises are reasonable, and the costs of any delay are geometric.”

China: “The government of China will act in a fully responsible manner to the people of China and the people of the world.”

United Arab Emirates: “This is a deal that works, and that works for us.”

Maldives: “I certainly speak from a country whose survival depends on these negotiations. I don’t think we should waste more time to negotiate more text. It’s about time we move on to the next stage.”

Bolivia’s delegation led the resistance to the Cancun compact, after a week of its president, Evo Morales, acting as the socialist champion of the world’s poor, especially the international peasant movement, Via Campesina. They emphasized the insufficiency of the agreement’s pollution goals and questioned the role of the World Bank, among other concerns. The legitimacy of their arguments was weakened by the fact that the countries they purported to be defending “” the vulnerable nations of Africa and the small island states “” unanimously support the agreement, despite its imperfection. Bolivia’s intransigence was initially supported by Cuba and the petrostates Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, but in the final moment adoption, it stood alone in opposition.

The Cancun compacts are the first real step toward building an international system that involves all global warming pollution “” not just that produced by the rich nations governed by the Kyoto Protocol. With one agreement that allows for the future development of the Kyoto Protocol system, the other establishes an international Green Climate Fund to be managed by the World Bank, and enacts mechanisms to fight deforestation and deploy clean technology in the developing world. Unfortunately, the review of the adequacy of these agreements with respect to the scientific threat is set to conclude in 2015 “” even though the current targets were set in 2007 and are already out of date.

The first lesson of the Cancun talks is that the governments of the world can in fact work together on global warming, even though decoupling civilization from greenhouse pollution is a herculean task. However, the second lesson is that their leadership only gets humanity so far. Only the full mobilization of the present generation can overcome the institutional barriers to change and protect our fragile civilization from the raging climate system our pollution has created. The Cancun compact has restored hope around the world, but now the actual work has to begin.

Brad Johnson, in a Wonk Room cross-post.

20 Responses to The Cancun Compacts: Nations of world choose hope in face of climate crisis

  1. daniel smith says:

    I would take this with a very large grain of salt regarding Bolivia and Via Campesina:

    “The legitimacy of their arguments was weakened by the fact that the countries they purported to be defending — the vulnerable nations of Africa and the small island states — unanimously support the agreement, despite its imperfection.”

    I cannot imagine that Brad Johnson is not aware that states do not always represent the best interests of their citizens. (Like, oh, sometimes they feather the nests of billionaire bankers and facilitate the screwing of the rest of the citizenry…) Via Campesina is a grassroots organization and to suggest there is anything amiss or unusual about their taking at odds with the official representatives of those vulnerable countries doesn’t tell us anything. What it does is beg the question of why, which is entirely avoided here. I assume much of their concern relates to REDD, which is riddled with opportunities for corruption and exploitation of marginalized people in those vulnerable countries. Could we perhaps pay attention to this rather than glossing over it?

  2. toby says:

    I suppose the Bjorn Lomborgs will be jumping in with “Aha!, here is it not adequate … etc””.

    The point is (and the point of Kyoto was) that it was a start. it can grow.

    At this point, there is no great expectations on the US. It will be interesting if China sees this as an issue where it could gain real global leadership.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Monckton is asked to leave corporate lunch party after airing his sceptical views on climate change

    But it seems that the man who in Copenhagen last year compared young protesters to Hitler Youth because they gatecrashed a meeting of climate sceptics, had not actually been invited to the largest business conference of the summit that featured Lord Stern, Richard Branson and several Mexican billionaires.

    After an hour of tolerating Monckton, the patience of the organisers wore thin. “Who is this man?” asked one American green venture capitalist. “These are weird views,” said another. A few minutes later he was asked to leave. Surprisingly, considering Cancún is so close to the US, such climate sceptics have been all but absent at the UN meeting. The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow , a US free-market thinktank that used to take money from oil companies, had a small stand in the non-government group halls, but otherwise it is a sceptic-free zone. Opinions were sharply divided over the reasons for their absence from the public arena. One group of people believe that they have no appetite for a fight and have exhausted themselves; another says that they are holding their guns for better sport later. Both opinions will, of course, be fiercely contested.

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Meet the Skeptics at CFACT’s COP16 Press Conference: Monckton, Spencer & Rothbard on Climate Science & Policy

    EXTRAS: Dr. Roy Spencer to debunk cloud feedback study w/in hour of its release and Climate Depot releases 321 page report – over 1,000 skeptical scientists–rothbard-on-climate-science–policy-111597934.html

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    “This is a new era of international co-operation on climate change,” Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa told delegates at the end of two weeks of talks overshadowed by disputes between rich and poor countries.
    more by Patricia Espinosa – 4 minutes ago – National Post

  6. Prokaryotes says:

    Perhaps the lack of media attention was exactly what was needed in order to make significant progress in the negotiations. Under the stewardship of the Mexican hosts, compromise documents were drawn up and, overcoming objections from Bolivia, endorsed by the nations present, including the US and China (both countries who have ritually blocked progress in negotiations previously). When Todd Stern, the US envoy, voiced his support for the document (“let us do what it takes to get this deal done and put the world on a path to a low emission and more sustainable pathway”) cheers apparently rang out around the hall.

    The deal, which still does not legally bind countries to cut emissions, will be insufficient for many campaigners. But most seem to agree that it represents a positive first step on the way to achieving that aim. WWF, for example, issued a statement tentatively acknowledging the “renewed sense of goodwill and some sense of purpose”. The pressure is now on to legally define the deal at next year’s summit in Durban, South Africa.

    The summit’s main success was the agreement to establish a Green Climate Fund which will raise and distribute $100bn (£64bn) a year by 2020 to protect poor nations against the impacts of climate change and help them develop a low-carbon economy. Taking much of the credit for the deal is Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, who was described as a “goddess” by the Indian environment minister, Jairem Ramesh: “You have restored the confidence of the world community in multilateralism and in the multilateral process,” he said.

  7. Jeff Huggins says:

    ‘Hope’ Plus a Dime

    As we are all learning, “hope” and Action are two very, very different things.

    Credibility and trust are based on action. Action and hope are an admirable combination, with the former being critical and instrumental to the combination. But “hope” alone has gotten us pretty close to nowhere, or am I mistaken on that?

    Will the actual “comprehensive document” — including an accurate summary of it, in case the document itself is zillions of pages — be posted soon?

    Please don’t get me wrong: I DO hope that substantial real progress was made, but “hope” is often no more than a word these days. “Hope” and a dime won’t even allow you to use a pay telephone. So I’m interested in hearing more, including facts. The fact that the President of Mexico stated that “Confidence is back” makes me still feel sleepy, like going back to bed, so I’d better get more coffee to keep me awake for the day’s real chores.

    (I appreciate the post, but I’m not at all sure what it really means.)



  8. Leif says:

    I have been grasping at straws for so long just to get yet another letter written that even a little stick in the pile looks promising. Perhaps it is the tip of the olive branch. Keep digging…


  9. Prokaryotes says:

    Will the actual “comprehensive document” — including an accurate summary of it, in case the document itself is zillions of pages — be posted soon?

    Jeff i think those are just 3 pages :) Next year Dangun? will bring more …

    The message taken away from this accord, will be the initiation of global unity/accountability. The foundation for the global fight against climate change is now there which can be used to build upon.

    For example the long rumored EU emission reduction target of 30% seems now a given — with further 40% in sight.

  10. Alex says:

    Am I the only one who took one glance at the new ‘agreement’ (not that it has been published yet) and thought “disaster”? The last thing we need is a document which gives legitimacy to the UNFCCC yet fails to achieve anything concrete (read: at all). This Bolivian Tweet says it all:

    “US came with nothing to offer & fully supports #Cancun text. Does that suggest a text that matches the climate crisis or a greenwash? #COP16”

    Here was my ideal-world scenario. I was praying for a complete collapse of the talks so that the USA could be seen for what they are – obstructionists who have not the slightest intention of doing anything about climate change.

    Next, the EU come to their senses, drop out of the UNFCCC and start a new coalition of coutries that actually want to at least try and make a difference. This new bloc agree to whack a healthy carbon tariff on imports from ‘outsider’ countries, whilst also working to reduce their own emissions. This would certainly have been in violation of the WTO rules by the way – if they had to drop out of the WTO, so be it; the cause is important enough.

    Once the US find that not only are they on the wrong side of history but that thier bottom line is getting hit, they would certainly lash out, but the immorality and indefensibility of their own actions means they would get no sympathy from the rest of the world. What happens next depends on the US electorate: Trade war then real war, or trade war then acquiescence to the new low-carbon future.

    Yes, this far-fetched, but less far fetched than the US ever voluntarily making a meaningful reduction to it’s own emissions – it will have to be forced. Yes I’m an angry European, but tell me I’m wrong?

  11. Mike says:

    A thought on framing. Maybe we should start talking about global drying as an aspect of climate change.

  12. J Bowers says:

    Stephen Leahy had an interesting snippet:

    “At the Globe Forum in Mexico City last weekend legislators from the G20 think they have a way to solve the geopolitical impasse here at the Cancun Climate Conference. Part of the solution is to simply leave the US out of any international negotiation.

    “The US will not sign a climate treaty for the next 10 years” said the German delegate. No US legislator participated in the forum.”

    A sign of things to come?

  13. J Bowers says:

    Evo Morales, as reported in the Guardian:

    “It’s easy for people in an air-conditioned room to continue with the policies of destruction of Mother Earth. We need instead to put ourselves in the shoes of families in Bolivia and worldwide that lack water and food and suffer misery and hunger. People here in Cancún have no idea what it is like to be a victim of climate change.”
    “The lakes are drying. There is drought. Millions of fish are dying in the Amazon basin of frost.”

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    This sums it up.

    Climate Talks End With Modest Deal on Emissions

    Although the steps taken here were fairly modest and do not mandate the broad changes that scientists say are needed to prevent dangerous climate change in coming decades, the result was a major step forward for a process that has stumbled badly in recent years.

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    “Jeff i think those are just 3 pages :) Next year Dangun?”

    The agreement is not a legally binding treaty, but it allows the process to continue to seek stronger steps in the coming year and, perhaps, a more robust accord at next year’s climate conference in DURBAN, South Africa.

    Fun Fact

    Dangun Wanggeom was the legendary founder of Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom, around present-day Liaoning, Manchuria, and the Korean Peninsula. He is said to be the grandson of heaven, and to have founded the kingdom in 2333 BC. Although the term Dangun commonly refers to the founder, some believe it was a title meaning “high priest” used by all rulers of Gojoseon, and that Wanggeom was the proper name of the founder.[1] The earliest recorded version of the Dangun legend appears in the 13th century Samguk Yusa, which cites China’s Book of Wei and Korea’s lost history text Gogi (古記).

  16. dp says:

    a promise of motion in the only available direction. yay, our heroes.

    meanwhile big investors putting the squeeze on the US economy send boatloads of bucks to china and block substantial government greening investment here.

  17. Jeff Huggins says:

    Shell, “the bravest woman in oil”, Ann Pickard, WikiLeaks cables, and Nigeria

    People, check this out!!

    Perhaps Climate Progress ought to do a post on this example of the sorts of things that the major oil companies are apparently doing and the intense intermingling of the oil industry, government, and international “intelligence”. Yikes!

    First, read this (link below), an article about one of the recent cables that was leaked on WikiLeaks, titled: “WikiLeaks cables: Shell’s grip on Nigerian state revealed”. The article mentions Shell’s Ann Pickard. Here’s the article, and it’s short and well worth reading:

    Then check this out (link below), the biography of Ann Pickard on Shell Australia’s website. According to the biography on Shell’s website, Ms. Pickard was “Described by Fortune Magazine as the bravest woman in oil and one of the 50 most powerful women in business”. She came to Shell from Mobil when Mobil was purchased by Exxon. According to the biography, Ms. Pickard has an MA from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from U.C. San Diego. So, if the article about the leaked cable is correct regarding Shell, Nigeria, and the statements made by Ms. Pickard, meet one of “our” international business folks who is wrapped up in the workings of the intertwined intersection of big oil and government:

    Yikes. If this is reality, we need to do something, folks.

    Also, does this sort of thing give you much confidence and trust in the new “hope” that we are supposed to be feeling because of the outcome in Cancun?

    Be Well,


  18. PeterW says:

    Does this agreement need to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives?