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Low Expectations for Climate Conference to Produce Legally Binding International Accord

As negotiators, nonprofit organizations and activists flock to the luxury resort in droves, serious tensions threaten to derail the process entirely.

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The Copenhagen Accord, by contrast, is a backroom deal brokered between Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the United States that flouts the UNFCCC’s two main principles: transparency and inclusiveness. And the Copenhagen Accord puts the onus on developing countries, such as China and India, to establish emissions reductions. Furthermore, unlike the Kyoto Protocol, it is not a ratified legally binding international agreement.

The majority of the UNFCCC’s 194 member nations support the Kyoto Protocol and their work revolves around two items: getting the United States, which is the only country not to have signed on, to ratify the treaty; and securing an extension of it beyond 2012.

The nations opposed to Kyoto and supportive of the Copenhagen Accord are typically putting the entire UNFCCC negotiating process into question, arguing that it is too unwieldy.

The UN Secretariat Christiana Figueres, who took over the helm from Yvo de Boer in May, recently reiterated the importance of adhering to the key UN principles of transparency and inclusiveness, in order to produce results at Cancún.

Mitigation of climate change also requires an agreement on deforestation, which accounts for 15-25 percent of ghgs. And while the UN put forward a mechanism aimed at Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, it is not welcome by all indigenous populations or forest-dependent communities and their involvement is key to addressing deforestation. The mechanisms through which the funding is provided, which range from public funding to private speculation, will also be hotly contested.

While lead climate negotiators and NGOs discuss these issues inside the Moon Palace Hotel, people will take to the streets to agitate for climate justice. Organizations such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Focus on the Global South, Rising Tide and Via Campesina will be coordinating actions throughout the week. There will be a Klimaforum, an initiative kicked off in Copenhagen, to provide a convergence space in Cancún.

The positions of climate justice activists vis-à-vis the outcome of the climate negotiations vary widely. Some hope an international climate agreement will emerge this year or next. Others hold out no such hope and argue that the COP 16 provides an opportunity not only for activists to gather and make their voices heard but also to build alliances that transcend national boundaries, while working to address climate change locally and regionally. The last large-scale summit that took place in Cancún in 2003, the WTO negotiations, broke down due to dissent expressed by southern nations. The collapse of these talks, the second after Seattle in 1999, was largely read as a game changer for the global financial system and for free trade agreements. We’ll see if such a radical change emerges from this year’s COP 16.

Tina Gerhardt is a freelance journalist and academic who has contributed to In These Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, TheNation.com and Salon.

 
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