What do you think of the ‘Cancun Agreements’?

Here’s the question of the day:  What do you think of the ‘Cancun Agreements’?

UPDATE:  Here is a a pdf file of the text.  Treehugger (whose website that seems to have been taken over by rollover/pop-up ads for Shell oil) headlines its piece, “Cancun Climate Agreement Saves UN Process But Not The Climate.”  Politico headlines its piece, “Cancun ends with modest climate deal.

Here’s a statement on the forestry agreement from John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress and Co-Chair of the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forest (followed by a summary of the Cancun Agreements by CAP’s Richard W. Caperton):

“Early this morning in Cancun, Mexico the world’s nations finally agreed to move forward on a substantive agreement on reducing carbon emissions from deforestation as part of a balanced package of other decision in the “Cancun Agreements.” This is a big win for all of us who have been arguing that this is the most efficient way to move forward with fighting climate change in the near term and absolutely essential as a means to protect biodiversity and advance global conservation goals.

Global emissions from deforestation are equal to total emission from the transportation sector. Those who may dismiss the decision on forestry in the Cancun Agreements as a small step forward do not have a proper appreciation that global warming simply cannot be solved without attention to the problem of deforestation.

After committing $1 billion last year in Copenhagen to fund the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD programs, the United States had already joined other countries such as Norway in showing leadership on this issue. But the many different global efforts to make progress on reducing emissions from deforestation need coherence to ensure our ability to spend these dollars wisely to ensure that programs work. The Cancun Agreements do just that while providing guidelines to balance the interests of indigenous peoples with the needs for development in poor countries.

I want to commend Todd Stern and the U.S. negotiating team for the leadership, dedication and spirit of compromise they showed these past two weeks in helping to formulate and broker these agreements. At the end of the day an international system for reducing emissions from deforestation and protecting our global forest resources is critical to U.S. interests.

REDD strengthens U.S. national security by reducing international instability, helps alleviate global poverty, and conserves priceless biodiversity. This agreement shows that developing countries are taking action on climate change, and that the U.S. stands ready to help them. But we also need stronger action to succeed.  As the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests argues, to have a chance at holding temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels we must cut deforestation globally by half by 2020.  This will require renewed leadership next year in Durban, South Africa and beyond. “

Here are more details on the Cancun Agreements from CAP’s Richard Caperton:

For the last two weeks, negotiators in Cancun, Mexico, have been hammering out details of the tools that will help us reach the greenhouse gas reduction commitments pledged in Copenhagen.  The Cancun Agreements alone will not solve climate change, nor will the Copenhagen Accord, but they have built a process to get the world moving toward agreement on how to stop climate change.  Andrew Light has the story on the negotiations, and the future of the UNFCCC and the Copenhagen Accord.

The 33-page Cancun Agreements represent the input of nearly 200 countries over the last year.  All of this input is invaluable, and all of the issues raised are incredibly important, but digging deep into every issue would be virtually impossible for any one country (not to mention one blog post).

The United States was primarily focused on issues of forestry, finance, and monitoring of reductions.  The following is a description of these issues, and why the outcomes are important.


Across the world, there are as many greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation each year as there are from transportation.  The Cancun Agreement builds an international system to reduce deforestation, an important development after developed countries pledged billions of dollars in financial support to fight deforestation last year in Copenhagen.  This issue is commonly referred to as “REDD,” for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”

Even though reducing emissions from deforestation is one of the easiest ways to start addressing climate change, implementing global deforestation programs is not without controversy.  For example, developing countries have legitimate development needs that sometimes conflict with forest preservation, and indigenous peoples in developing countries have unique relationships with forests that must also be considered.

Ultimately, the Cancun Agreement creates a path forward for more permanent funding of forest protection efforts.  It specifically allows for market-based mechanisms, such as letting reduced deforestation count as an offset in a cap-and-trade system.  It also specifically recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples.

When negotiators meet next year, they will need to add more substance to the agreement, including establishing a global market for reducing deforestation that builds on the principles agreed to in Cancun.


Last year in Copenhagen, developed countries committed to mobilizing $100 billion annually in financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, starting in 2020.  The Cancun agreement builds a structure for a “Green Climate Fund,” which will manage this very large amount of money.

The most important issue in designing the fund is giving operational control of it to a body with significant financial expertise, and identifying a financial caretaker for the fund that has the institutional capability to handle hundreds of billions of dollars.  The agreement includes the latter of these goals, but the former is less certain.

Reports are that the US insisted on making the World Bank the “trustee” of the fund.  The agreement specifies the role of the trustee, including managing the financial assets of the fund, maintaining appropriate financial records, and preparing financial statements.  Naming the World Bank the initial trustee ensures that a skilled financial leader will manage the fund.

Unfortunately, the agreement also states that the fund is “accountable to and functions under the guidance of the Conference of the Parties,” and establishes it as an “operating entity” of the UNFCCC.  The UNFCCC process has not demonstrated an ability to work quickly or nimbly, nor does the UNFCCC has any internal capacity for overseeing an extremely large financial fund.  We have to hope that the UNFCCC exercises a minimal level of day-to-day control over the fund, and instead leaves as much management as possible to the trustee.

Moving forward, the next step in building the Green Climate Fund is identifying sources for the $100 billion commitment.  Formal discussions on this topic started in Cancun, where a proposal to put a price on the carbon emissions from international transport and shipping was included in early drafts.  Some developed countries, including the US, opposed this idea because of legal concerns, but it should be back on the table in South Africa.  Indeed, every single source of finance that the UN High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing identified in their final report should be part of the negotiation in South Africa.  Now that the Green Climate Fund has been built, it’s time to think about how to put money into it.


Underlying the entire Cancun Compromise is the issue of making sure that countries are actually doing what they commit to do.  In the parlance of climate negotiations, this is known as “measurement, reporting, and verification.”

There are two significant tensions in building a system for monitoring.  First, the system needs to be sufficiently uniform to make comparisons between countries meaningful, but also needs to recognize the significant differences among countries.  Second, the system needs to be strong enough to be meaningful, but there’s also broad agreement that monitoring shouldn’t be punitive.  The Cancun agreement strikes a balance on both of these tensions, representing significant compromise from all negotiators.

Both developed and developing countries are charged with creating systems for measurement of emissions reductions.  In developing countries, though, only reductions that are supported by international efforts (such as reductions that are financed by the Green Climate Fund) are subject to international measurement and verification.

There are different mechanisms for ensuring the integrity of the measurement processes in developed and developing countries.  Developing countries are subject to international consultation and analysis of their reduction efforts, but only in ways that are “non-intrusive, non-punitive, and respectful of national sovereignty.”  Developed countries, on the other hand, are to jointly establish a process for international review of their emissions reductions, but are not subject to the same international consultation and analysis process.  The fact that the process for developed countries does not allow for the same level of outside review is a significant flaw in the Cancun agreement, but is hopefully offset by outside involvement in the design of measurement systems.

Now that the structures for building measurement systems are in place, it’s time for countries to move forward and start to determine exactly how reductions will be counted and monitored.

Building systems as a way of building agreement

Clearly, climate change will not be stopped because of today’s agreement in Cancun.  But, this agreement puts the systems and structures in place that will eventually contribute to stopping climate change.  For too long, the world has believed that the only way to deal with the effects of greenhouse gases is to have an agreement in which every country commits to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, even though this strategy has been ineffective.  What happened over the last two weeks in Cancun takes the world down a new path, in which we build the framework for actually reducing harmful carbon dioxide pollution first, and then commit to legally-binding quantitative reductions in the future.

This meeting is a significant achievement for the United States’ negotiating team.  Because of the Senate’s inability to pass a comprehensive climate bill, the US team came into this meeting knowing that they would be unable to commit to an emissions reduction target beyond the Copenhagen agreement.  They had to instead spend much of the meeting convincing other countries that state actions, Environmental Protection Agency actions, and clean energy incentives would help the US meet its Copenhagen commitment.  Without the ability to credibly commit to new reductions, and without legislative backing for any commitment, the US had very little to offer in negotiations.

Yet, the US successfully led efforts to craft an agreement that lays the groundwork for making new commitments in the future.  For example, since the US can not make large-scale contributions to a climate fund right now, the negotiators focused on setting up a fund that the US will be able to contribute to in the future.  They did the same thing with forestry and verification issues.

Many observers will say that the Cancun agreement simply punted real decisions to next year’s meeting in Durban, South Africa.  This is only partly true.  The fight against climate change was never going to be won in Cancun, and it will not be won next year in South Africa, not will it be won in 2012 or 2013.  The fight against climate change will be won over the next several decades, and it will involve the commitment of every nation of the world.  The Cancun agreement is an important step in designing a system that will work for many years, and will involve nearly 200 countries.  This is no small feat.

Looking forward, countries now have to bring actions to the systems they’ve designed.  With the structure of a climate fund decided, the next step is figuring out how the fund will operate, and where its money will come from.  With the rules for monitoring emissions reductions in place, the next step is to move forward with deciding how much emissions need to be reduced to make the world safe for future generations.

The Cancun agreement contains some of what is needed to stop climate change.  The world needs to build on this agreement next year.

I’m a “glass is one-fifth full too bad we’re in a Dustbowlification driven firestorm” guy.  How about you?

41 Responses to What do you think of the ‘Cancun Agreements’?

  1. My take from being here in Cancun for two weeks: lip service is paid to science. It is a highly technical, trade negotiation where lawyers argue for days over “shall” or “may”….

    There is little political will from big countries, esp the US to push for real mitigation.

    It’s seen as success only in there was no collapse – reveals the deep damage Obama et all did with their side deal in Copenhagen. Trust is a very, very delicate flower at the UN when rich countries fail consistently to fulfill their promises or act.

    My full article what all this means will be posted here in a few hours after its published -(providing I can stay awake long enough to post it

  2. Joce03 says:

    Seeing how my country (Canada) was unable to hold up it’s end on the Kyoto Protocol which we signed, I don’t see why I should get excited about this.

    And, seeing as how my government doesn’t have much money to spend on green technology HERE, I don’t see were they will find money to support developing countries. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that we have a responsibility to financially help developing countries, I just don’t see it happening. At least not in Canada. Sigh.

  3. toby says:

    Kyoto was a false start. This might be the real thing. At least there is no false hope about the US leading the process, and China and India are on board.

    I accept that it is going to be too late for many regions of the globe and the world will see increasing climate disasters as the century continues. Bill McKibben compared the present to the eve of World War II. Well, 1939 was much too late to prevent the war and millions of lives were lost.

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Progress has to start somewhere and without any agreement over all these years of “hope”, the world finally has come to some sort of basic agreement. I think the most important will be that this sends a clear message to the industry.

    I believe that Today marks the end of the Skeptic attempts to temper an agreement from the very begin. People like Monckton already lost the attention they had the past years and they are just left with some out of reality image. The oil industry has to move now, everything else i would say will lead to serious consequences for the people of fossil energy sector.

    John Podesta said, “This is a big win for all of us who have been arguing that this is the most efficient way to move forward with fighting climate change in the near term and absolutely essential as a means to protect biodiversity and advance global conservation goals.”

    I absolutely agree and basically this NYT article sums it up for me.

    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.

  5. There is so much truth in the sentence, that “this agreement doesn’t help the climate much, but it saved the process”. There is also the necessity to applaud Bolivia and its brave ambassador Solon. I am happy that his attempt to get a Copenhagen-like Tuvalu effect was not resonated among other ALBA-states or some from the other side of morality, most prominently the Saudis of course. But Solon raised valuable points that mainstream media and NGOs did not fully understand (or at least didn’t fully see in context): the fear of Worldbank-participation, the seemingly uncritical “go-ahead” for the CDM and ET as well as the stupidity of hailing the 2-degrees (Bush acknowledged that in 2007! It is a goal, not an instrument. It doesn’t matter if it is a G8 or a COP decision, it’s about communication!).
    The Cancun-agreement is just a small step forward from Copenhagen. At least it is a step. It starts action where it is needed (AF, REDD, Tech…) and leaves a little window for necessary improvements. But real climate action – we learned it the hard way in the past 12 month – is not done in the halls of the UNFCCC any more. Real change comes from below. So stop trying to model a perfect market-scheme globally and start focus more on solidarity-/debt-/climate-finance and Tech-Transfer to help the South get into a position to start things moving bottom-up, too. You will never get all major emitters under a real global climate treaty, never. Because of development concerns on one side and your tea-party-weirdos on the other side! :(

  6. crf says:

    It isn’t an agreement to prevent dangerous climate change, because such an agreement was impossible-to-unlikely however the problem is looked at (political, technical, financial, ethical, etc.).

    It doesn’t politically constrain what path the future holds, for good or ill. The agreement doesn’t constrain multilateral international cooperation on financing, technology transfer and scientific cooperation. It doesn’t prevent any country acting faster and more deeply to mitigate climate change.

    It gives the freedom for countries to act irresponsibly. I guess you could call it “democratic” in that way. It doesn’t, however, prevent countries from doing the right thing. Reality-based true conservatives can’t hold up this agreement and screech about UN takeovers, economic collapse, world-wide socialism and loss of sovereignty (of course anti-science conservatives will screech and blather, but they are impossible to have an honest disagreement with). It really gives a free hand for countries to do the right thing. If the right thing isn’t done, countries can only look to blame themselves, not the process.

  7. Peaksurfer says:

    I stayed awake long enough to post an essay reviewing the highlights of the 37-page Cancun Compact to my blog at While I was skeptical and saw nothing but hopelessness the day before, I was surprised by the change in mood last night. Cancun was a big step. Overnight (literally) we went from 15% coverage of emissions (Kyoto) to 90%. Sure there are gaps, and sure this is not a legally binding treaty (which could not get past the US Senate, or Canada, Australia, etc. anyway) but as most would say, and did, it was the best that could be gotten.

    And really, reading the 37 pages, it is very impressive. REDD takes account for afforestation leaks and damage to landless and indigenous communities by establishing auditing. The Green Fund will assess new renewables breakthroughs and speed their dissemination. Island refugees are promised relocation with dignity and respect (unlike current policies in ANZAC). People will be paid to plant trees and keep them growing.

    I was among those very discouraged, queued out in the snow at Copenhagen. Mexico restored trust in the process, hosted many listening sessions, and despite Bolivia’s complaints, even heard and incorporated Morales’ essential points. All were heard. The document reflects that. It is not tone deaf to the NGOs, UNEP, the gigatonne gap, or science. It sets tough goals like 2 degrees, possibly 1.5 degrees after further review. There is no longer any mention of 450 ppm.

    So, while it is far from perfect, and the streets of Cancun are paved with good intentions, it provides a way forward. We are much better off today than we were at this time yesterday.

    — Albert Bates

  8. Peter Wood says:

    The commitments and policy measures from countries around the world are still nowhere near what we need to address climate change, but what has been achieved in the negotiations could provide the building blocks to drive much more action. The Cancún Agreements not only include a framework for countries to record and report on their commitments and actions, it also recognises that more needs to be done, and urges countries to do more. For too long, countries around the world have been holding back on climate action, because they think that everyone else isn’t doing anything. The transparency created by the Cancún Agreements could mean that this will be much less of a problem in the future. Stronger domestic climate action will now be more likely to be implemented globally, and this in turn could lead to countries taking on stronger commitments.

    Because so much effort over the past few years has been invested in these negotiations, and because of the detailed consensus achieved, there is a huge amount of ‘buy-in’ for the Cancún Agreements. What has been achieved is a historic outcome for the climate.

  9. dp says:

    while hot money is hell bent on replacing the credit bubble w/ ’emerging’ industrial expansion, ecological action is hamstrung. it’s not even about side benefits anymore: it seems like today’s lobotomized money managers will only endorse fast fuel switching if it makes them richer than any other possibilities.

  10. Janhavi says:

    I think it was very important. I am Indian, and I am not sure CP readers appreciate the importance of the UN process itself to developing countries, and to domestic politics in countries like India. The UN process has a lot more credibility than the Major Economies Forum, G20, etc,
    In Cancun, India relaxed its stance and said “one day all countries will have to accept legally binding emissions”. The Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is getting a lot of flak from domestic opposition parties about bowing to US pressure. He was able to respond that “it is not a question of US pressure, the Least developed countries, island nations, our neighbours Bangladesh and Maldives all want us to do this”
    This kind of stuff is, I think, is important to Indian domestic politics. There is quite a lot of distrust of the US, multilateral UN negotiations work better for domestic politics.

    But I really don’t see any possibility of further UN progress unless US politics change. The US may or may not meet its Copenhagen pledges, and probably won’t commit to deeper emissions cuts or increased funding for the next few years. Without the US, I don’t see any progress happening in COP17 in Cancun

  11. EDpeak says:

    What planet are they from in which Bolivia is among the “bullies”? You can agree or disagree with the tactics Bolivia and others have taken as ‘hard line’ or not, in defense against the planet-wrecking Business As Usual of the corporate-run “free” world those of us in developed countries live in:

    but whether you agree or not with the tactics, the bullies always have been the powerful; overwhelmingly the West, with some amount from China as well; we run

    the world

    where “we” means, not we the people but the corporate centers of power and the governments beholden to them. Anyone who highlights Bolivia as among the bullies, much less, highlights Bolivia to the exclusion of calling our western leaders the arrogant bullies that they have been playing the role of, lives on another planet.

    Joce makes an excellent point; only when We The People enforce in practice what’s signed, do the pieces of paper become something that’s worth the paper they were written on.

    I’m also all for Joe’s “one fifth full”, if only for the Pascal’s Wager “view” or working assumption that giving up is simply not an option and that one has to take one small victories one has, and to proceed under the “working assumption” that something sane can be salvaged for humanity’s future; no matter ho grim things look, giving up is simply not an option, if we care about fellow human beings and the wide biosphere.

    Though sometimes, while not giving up, we need to help keep ourselves sane with a dandelion break or one sort of another :*)

  12. Bill Green says:

    Regarding #7 (Peaksurfer), I am somewhat more dubious. I disagree that we went from 15 percent coverage under Kyoto to 90 percent under Cancun. Remember the U.S., China, and India SIGNED Kyoto (although ultimately the Clinton/Gore Administration decided to submit it to the Senate for ratification. We are really at a comparable stage with Cancun at the present time, since the U.S. and China are not really committted to anything until we see domestic implementation.

    While Cancun seems designed to avoid the need for Senate ratification, the recent election suggests to me, at least, that implementation is going to be a rocky road in the U.S., where a lot of the “carrots” for clean energy and efficiency investments provided by ARRA seem unlikely to remain in effect. Also, do you really think that the new House is going to transfer tens of billions in adaptation, mitigation, and avoided defoestation assistence to developing countries, which is a linchpin of the Cancun agreement.

    If you do, there’s a bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan that I’d be happy to sell you for a few dollars — are you in?


  13. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    So very little, so very late. Certainly too little, but I hope not too late. Future generations will not regard us kindly.

  14. John Mason says:

    Long way to go still, but I was encouraged.


    “So stop trying to model a perfect market-scheme globally and start focus more on solidarity-/debt-/climate-finance and Tech-Transfer to help the South get into a position to start things moving bottom-up, too. You will never get all major emitters under a real global climate treaty, never. Because of development concerns on one side and your tea-party-weirdos on the other side!”

    (and Janhavi) –

    Genuine global grassroots changes have great potential – not just to the less developed countries but to seriously-developing ones such as India too IMO. What is needed are as many highly successful working examples of good practice as are possible. The more of those that there are, that are an obvious success to most people, the more the hardline opposition will find itself marginalised. But I recognise it ain’t gonna be easy….

  15. From my wrap-up article for IPS/TerraViva newswires:

    “Emissions Punted to Durban, Breakthrough Seen on Forests”

    If success is measured by delaying difficult decisions, then the Cancún climate meeting succeeded by deferring crucial issues over financing and new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the next Conference of the Parties meeting a year from now in Durban, South Africa.

  16. Lore says:

    Joe;… all I want to know is how come you’re not selling t-shirts like Watts?

  17. Jeff Huggins says:

    Honesty — and THE Question

    How do I put this? Perhaps this way …

    Yesterday was yesterday. Today, in some senses, it makes little sense to do anything other than understand what the “deal” is and what it isn’t, i.e., from a factual standpoint, not concerning ourselves with the question of grading it as an A, A-, B, C, D, F, or worse-than-F. As far as I can tell, pitches of this deal as “good” and “hopeful” or (on the other hand) as a complete failure are of little use, really, when compared to the real question of, What Now?

    Call me moody today, but I don’t really care to hear about this as being a breakthrough or any such thing. Putting lipstick on a mess, as we keep falling behind, can only diminish credibility and (at least in my case) make me wonder who, anymore, is going to give me the dispassionate and honest straight scoop. Who will? Who?

    At the same time, fatalism is fatal. So that’s why the practical and real question is, What to do NOW? Action speaks. Regardless of whether this “deal” should be given a C+, a D, or an F-, or even a B (for goodness sake, who could possibly give it a B?), the real test of where we, and Climate Progress, and CAP stand is what we will begin to do in a week’s time, or first thing in January.

    Put another way — in case my sentiment is not clear — we can give this deal an A+ or an F-, and those assessments are mere words. The real test — and what I will use as a measure of whether progress is likely or not — is what we will choose to DO next? Because if, by giving this a C grade or better, we mainly sit around and hope and expect that next year’s meeting will be better, the joke will be on us.

    I am “hopeful”, but only if we get creative and realize that our past actions pale in comparison to the efforts that will be needed going forward. If the movement’s organizations stick with their present status-quo approaches, then I’ll be decidedly un-hopeful, if that’s the right word to use. It’s not working. Do we get it?

    Sorry. My intent is positive. But vastly improved creativity, action, and effectiveness are called for at this point. If people see that, and act on it, great. If not, that’s a problem. I’m just trying to tell it like I see it. Please let me know if I’m wrong or if I’m a party pooper?



  18. dbmetzger says:

    From New Dehli news service

    Done Deal at Cancun, Finally
    Cancun climate summit has managed to get nations to agree on taking the discussion forward on tackling climate change but environmentalists say that the accord is generally weak and will not tackle climate change.

  19. Wit's End says:

    So, the major achievement of Cancun is REDD?

    In light of the link provided by Colorado Bob on an earlier thread, indicating that the boreal forest has converted from an overall carbon sink to a source of emissions

    and an earlier story about the dismal prospects for the Amazon rainforest,

    and this report tabulating the startling increase in wildfires

    Subarctic Wildfires a Runaway Climate Change Risk

    add that to my own expectation, well documented by the US EPA, that toxic effects of ozone pollution are diminishing vegetation of all sorts, as excerpted here:

    the notion that we are going to combat the worst effects of climate change by planting trees and reducing deforestation strikes me as quixotic. The trees are dying just as fast as the coral reefs.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love trees and have planted hundreds myself. But, my glass has barely a dribble in it.

  20. Sailesh Rao says:

    The Cancun agreements did nothing to diminish the demand for land. As long as the demand for land keeps increasing, forests will continue to be in trouble and so will we.

  21. Inverse says:

    3 decides (see below):
    …1…Framework, guess that will be a working party
    …2…Committee, guess that will be a working party type committee
    …3…Process, guess that will be a working party

    So we have 3 decisions all ending in jobs for the boys!! Also not any mention that countries trying to get funding based on climate change issues have to prove that climate change is the cause, in fact the word prove does not appear once in the document!!

    The 3 decisions:

    Decides to hereby establish the Cancun Adaptation Framework

    Decides to hereby establish an Adaptation Committee

    Decides to hereby establish a process to enable least developed country Parties to formulate and implement national adaptation plans

  22. Ziyu says:

    Seems to me the Cancun agreements are just the Copenhagen Accord made more specific.
    Copenhagen: We’ll provide incentives for REDD. Cancun: Here’s how the incentives work.
    Copenhagen: We’ll establish a Green Fund to provide $100 billion per year by 2020. Cancun: Here’s how it will be set up and who has control.
    Copenhagen: We’ll create a system to verify emissions reductions. Cancun: Well here’s the system.

  23. RobM says:

    We have a debt based monetary system that requires exponential growth or it will collapse. To reduce emissions we must reduce fossil energy use and because fossil energy is 90+% of all energy this means we must reduce total energy use. Wealth production is proportional to energy use. Therefore wealth production must contract. Therefore our monetary system must be collapsed and replaced with a new system. Since 90+% of all wealth in the world is debt based, this means we must find a peaceful means of sharing a 90+% hair cut.

    I see nothing in the Cancun agreement that deals with this reality. In fact I see no understanding whatsoever of the task ahead of us.

  24. dp says:

    @ RobM

    “because fossil energy is 90+% of all energy this means … our monetary system must be collapsed and … we must find a peaceful means of sharing a 90+% hair cut. I see nothing in the Cancun agreement that deals with this reality.”

    since it’s not true, you won’t see it much anywhere, except where people make things up.

  25. Sanjay Ray says:

    The Cancun Agreement adopting a package to combat climate change, refers to all the related issues but nowhere it spells out the most dreading factor on this planet earth and it is the ever increasing population. It will be a tragedy when the earth would not be able to take the load of all the worries highlighted in the agreement which basically is a fall out of the single factor i.e. the population explosion. Let good sense prevail to save the humanity.

  26. Dan Robbins says:

    Humans are incapable of responding to a crisis this large because we refuse to believe it. So any attempt to talk about it, discuss it, argue about it, raise a hand to propose a change in our behavior or to find a way for science or innovation to solve the problem is a futile and absurd waste of time. Better yet, I browse a hundred websites daily to spot miniscule evidence that changes are becoming irreversible patterns. We need to write down the changes, find who is responsible, and then sit back and watch humanity go downhill. Why is it that we are mesmerized by videos of tsunamis, avalanches, volcanic explosions, floods, landslides, sinkholes? So mark the changes, and become part of it. We’ll deny and deny and deny our responsibility, and we’ll argue that it is solar changes, natural climate changes (of which we have no control)and it doesn’t matter, because countries will not make adequate changes in behavior (ego prevents all of us to admit that we have been wrong). We either adapt, or die off. Always has been that way, always will be. But to hope for a solution at a Mexican resort by people eating huge shrimp cocktails and unlimited mai tais is, perhaps, hoping for a bit too much. And it is unrealistic. Watch and observe how all this plays out.

  27. Marc Roberts says:

    I’ve summed up my glass-largely-empty response in a cartoon, here

  28. Roger Wehage says:

    How many tons of CO2 did Cancun cost?

  29. Artful Dodger says:

    This all reminds me of High School, when it’s Sunday night at 10:30, the essay is due in the morning, and I haven’t started to read the book yet. Then, pull an all-niter, and turn in the paper late.

    In Cancun, the World Community has tacitly agreed to do nothing until AFTER global temps increase 2 C before we begin any substantive action. I wonder what our excuse will be?

  30. Roger Wehage says:

    Artful Dodger @29 says: I wonder what our excuse will be?

    Statutes Of Limitation? Considering the forty year temperature effect lag behind CO2 emissions cause, our excuse will likely be to blame prior generations. The 2°C rise the world will experience in the not-so-distant future will not have come from emissions then but from those many years prior. That we could have sacrificed to mitigate our reckless past will not come to mind.

  31. Leif says:

    What is the carbon Foot Print of Cancun? Asks Roger W, @28. I would ask in turn, what is the cost of obstruction to carbon mitigation efforts that require Cancun efforts to counter?

  32. Wit's End says:

    This video from Democracy Now is worth watching esp. the young lady Kary Fulton speaking for Youth for Climate Justice against REDD as a false solution.

    From another huffpo story on Cancun:

    “However today, climate change seems to be a forgotten story. Thus, it was not surprising to find that the major TV broadcast networks in the United States seemed to be ignoring the conference. Democracy Now! producers reviewed the transcripts of last week’s evening news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC in the United States, and found that the Cancún climate talks were not mentioned a single time.”

  33. dbmetzger says:

    Climate Conference Puts Off Major Decisions
    The latest United Nations Climate Change Conference drew to a close in Cancun, Mexico, Saturday with agreements on a number of minor issues. Though most of the major challenges remain unresolved.

  34. Sailesh Rao says:

    Re: #25 (Sanjay Ray): While human population increased by a factor of 6 in the 20th century from 1 billion to 6 billion, human consumption increased by a factor of 16 in real terms from $1.5 trillion to over $24 trillion. In 2000, the contribution of the top 1 billion people to that consumption binge was over $18 trillion (UNDP stats). Therefore, even if human population had been held constant in the 20th century at 1 billion, it is quite likely that you would be facing the same problems right now. When we live in a capitalistic system where the common objective function is to maximize individual affluence, human impact on the planet can be large even with a stable population. When a single family of 5 can build a 27-story home costing over $1 billion, and get written about glowingly in the press, it doesn’t take too many such families to create a crushing human footprint on the planet. And, the bill for that footprint is coming due…

  35. Peter Wood says:

    Hopefully the Cancun Agreements will facilitate a bottom-up approach to enhancing mitigation.

    I’ve written more at a blog post here:

  36. Robert says:

    Why do I feel that we are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

  37. One-third into this piece, Joe writes:

    [JR: I didn’t write this.]

    “Moving forward, the next step in building the Green Climate Fund is identifying sources for the $100 billion commitment. Formal discussions on this topic started in Cancun, where a proposal to put a price on the carbon emissions from international transport and shipping was included in early drafts. Some developed countries, including the US, opposed this idea because of legal concerns, but it should be back on the table in South Africa.”

    This is the kind of bland statement that effectively hides the real reasons so little progress has been made to date on GCC.

    Did the Obama adminstration really oppose a tax on international shipping and transport because of “legal concerns”? Certainly not. It opposed it, as it has opposed other attempts to tax carbon emissions, because nothing must be allowed to hinder economic growth, domestically or internationally. Certain not such trivialities as protecting the environment.

    It is clear that economic growth, itself, is the primary cause of increased greenhouse gas emissions. Dealing effectively with GCC must involve reining in economic growth. Yet the nations of the world are far from acknowledging this, or even honestly debating how much can be done to limit GCC without addressing growth.

    Hence we have these annual conferences, avoiding the key issue.

  38. Prokaryotes says:

    Small Climate Deals Forged Outside Int’l Talks
    Climate change action forges ahead, regardless of treaty talks. World Bank: We can’t wait

    Walmart is going green in its Chinese factories. George Soros is exploring investments in the restoration of drained peatlands in Indonesia. Denmark is joining South Korea in a new fund to transform developing economies.

    As delegates to the latest U.N. climate talks struggled to come up with a modest pair of global warming accords, governments, businesses and individuals working behind the scenes forged ahead with their own projects to cut emissions.

    “Regardless of what happens in these negotiations, we shouldn’t be waiting. We should be doing practical things on the ground,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in an interview before the talks wound up Saturday.

  39. Edward says:

    Setting flower pots by the deck chairs on the Titanic. My cup is full of dry sand. Will REDD accomplish the stated purpose or some other purpose? We will find out later.

  40. catman306 says:

    How it ends:

    noun hunger, want, starvation, deprivation, scarcity, dearth, destitution refugees trapped by war, drought and famine
    “They that die by famine die by inches” [Matthew Henry Expositions on the Old and New Testament]

    Why famine? Because it’s difficult to grow crops in an unstable climate. (Where to plant? When to plant? When to harvest?)
    In the near future, only the rich will have food. Further along: Does paper money have any food value? Not so much? Oh, well. Our civilization won’t be the first to have failed. Usually by famine. Building new civilizations will be difficult, if not impossible, in a world with 5 or 6 degrees of warming.

    Only when the rich and powerful understand these simple truths will we begin to solve the problems of climate change. They won’t until they are no longer rich and powerful. Too late, by then.

  41. John Hirsch says:

    Continuing with the Titanic analogy, the ship is listing and shortly to go down – I only hope that the Durban talks focus more on adaptation to our inevitable failure to curb the rise in greenhouse gases – how to deal with desertification, higher oceans, forest fires, famine, and potentially the worst problem of all – the forced migrations of people from the ruined parts of the planet to the more habitable northern latitudes.