The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) in Cancun, Mexico, began this week with calls for commitment and compromise. In his opening speech, Mexican President Felipe Calderon cited last year's hurricane in Mexico, this year's floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia as examples of increasing incidences of natural disasters brought about by climate change.
The two-week meeting is the 16th conference of the 194 parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the sixth meeting of the 192 parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
Governments have revealed a growing convergence that a balanced set of decisions under both the convention and the Kyoto Protocol could be an achievable outcome in Cancun, according to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.
Chief among the issues at the conference is how to take mitigation actions forward. This year, all 37 industrialized nations and 42 developing countries – including the largest emerging economies submitted targets and voluntary actions to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Figueres, developed countries have committed to live up to the fast-start finance pledged in 2009. Developed countries have announced pledges totaling $28 billion, and many of them are now making information available on the disbursement of these funds.
Politically charged issues under the Kyoto Protocol include the need to avoid a gap after the first commitment period and the importance of having clarity on the continuation of the protocol, along with the continuation of engaging the private sector through its market mechanisms beyond 2012.
Unresolved issues include the accountability for implementation of mitigation targets and actions, the mobilization of long-term finance, the creation of a new fund for this and the accompanying accountability of its delivery, along with the understanding of fairness that will guide long-term mitigation efforts.
Close to 15,000 participants, including government delegates from the 194 parties of the UNFCCC and representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions, are attending the two-week gathering in Cancun.