News From Cancun: High Stakes, Glimmers Of Hope

The Wonk Room is reporting and tweeting live from the international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

Helping Others Helps US

A new report from the Center for American Progress and the Alliance For Climate Protection finds that American support for an international adaptation fund for the most vulnerable countries will reap great rewards for the future security of the United States. U.S. firms will “capture a substantially larger share of global clean energy markets,” “risks of climate-related national security threats” in unstable regions will be reduced, and there will be “billions of dollars in reduced climate impacts in the United States.”

Climate Power Couples Take Charge


Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa has asked five pairs of rich and poor nations to tackle the questions necessary for a positive result at the Cancun talks. These Bennifers and Brangelinas of the climate negotiations will hold the key to the incremental success hoped for here:

Britzil: Britain and Brazil have the greatest responsibility, assigned to break the deadlock over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Bangralia: Australia and Bangladesh are developing draft text for international financing and technology transfer.

Spalgeria: Spain and Algeria are working together on adaptation assistance for developing countries.

Grenaden: Sweden and Grenada will “work on long-term global goals for slowing climate change,” the “shared vision” text for the long-term cooperative action track (the non-Kyoto-based agreement).

New Zindonesia: New Zealand and Indonesia are working on “other issues about curbing greenhouse gases,” most likely the flexible mechanisms like the REDD+ deforestation plan and land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) language.

In addition, India, the United States and China are working on a plan for international monitoring of emissions pledges from developing nations — the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) approach to Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV).

Diminished, Dangerous World Drives Urgency

The dangerous interference with the climate system that is already taking place is driving urgency among most nations at the conference. “Even when we’re underwater, when the bubbles pop, you’ll hear us yelling,” Seychelles delegate Ronny Jumeau tells the Los Angeles Times. The devastating flooding in Colombia has forced Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, to cancel his scheduled trip to the talks — even though global warming itself is what is affecting his nation. And a new report from Dara projects that there will be a million climate deaths a year by 2030. Nearly all of the deaths will take place in least developed nations, and nearly of them are preventable if a sufficient international adaptation effort is funded.

Japan Leads Obstructionist Bloc With Russia And Canada

The future of the Kyoto Protocol, which puts all emission reduction obligations on developed nations but expires in 2012, is not resolvable at the Cancun talks. Recognizing that, the United States, China, the European Union, and nearly all of the least developed nations have indicated their willingness to continue negotiations but let final decisions come next year. However, at the beginning of this conference, Japan took a hard-line position against continuing the Kyoto Protocol in any fashion, and the governments of Canada and Russia have joined them. This poison-pill strategy threatens to overshadow the pragmatic approach taken by nearly all the other delegations for these talks.