13 December 2010 – [Updated] Cancun is over. Was Cop 16 a success? Here are the views of a few leading players and observers:

Federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet
Mr Combet said the main points of the outcome at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun were:

  • For the first time an anchoring under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of the pledges made by developed and developing countries in the Copenhagen Accord. This is important because it provides an agreed pathway to achieve major emissions cuts. This is the first time that all major emitters have agreed to report to the world community their commitments and efforts to reduce carbon pollution in their own economies
  • The establishment of a new Green Climate Fund to help developing countries deal with climate change
  • A mechanism that will deliver economic opportunities for developing countries to reduce emissions that result from deforestation – one of the largest sources of global emissions
  • New rules to ensure that all countries will be able to see what each other is doing to tackle climate change
  • Agreement to provide strong and practical support for vulnerable developing countries to manage unavoidable climate impacts
  • Establishment of a mechanism that will help promulgate clean energy technology around the world

Mr Combet also said he was ” honoured, on behalf of Australia, to be personally invited by the President of the Conference of Parties to chair the high level negotiations on the establishment of the Green Climate Fund.

“This has been a major achievement of this Conference and will mobilise significant funds to help developing countries tackle climate change.

“Climate change is an issue that affects countries all around the world and requires us to work together so we can all move to a cleaner energy future and address the impacts of climate change. At this conference we heard from countries around the world about the impacts they will face from climate change including to their water and food security as well as impacts from the increased frequency of severe weather events. We have also heard a lot about the economic opportunities and benefits that action on climate change presents.”

Mr Combet thanked his “close colleague and friend” Parliamentary Secretary, Mark Dreyfus for his work at the conference also also that of the Australian delegation.

The Climate Institute

The UN climate talks, which have wrapped up in Cancun set the stage for Australia’s 2011 year of action, as countries responsible for around 80 percent of global pollution formally committed to limit their emissions, The Climate Institute said as the talks closed.

“Last year in Copenhagen countries effectively signed an MOU for high level commitments. This year in Cancun countries went a step further by signing a more detailed contract to deliver more effective international action on pollution and climate change,” Climate Institute deputy chief executive officer Erwin Jackson said.

“While some aspects are disappointing, the Cancun Summit delivered important progress in several key areas. Most significantly, the Cancun talks produced a formal UN decision anchoring pollution limitation and reduction targets covering over 80 percent of global emissions.

“This is the first time we’ve seen the US together with China and all other major emitters anchoring their national pollution targets in a formal UN agreement – the significance of this should not be underestimated.

“Without a domestic pollution limit and price Australia can’t cooperate fully internationally as it cannot meet the commitments made in Cancun.

“Without a domestic pollution price we will continue to be left behind by countries dominating the emerging low pollution economy and the agreements at Cancun leave no excuse for inaction in 2011.

“A limit and price on pollution remains central to our economic prosperity and without domestic action in 2011 Australia risks being left behind the emerging low pollution economy which has received a boost from the Cancun outcome.

“Including national targets in formal UN decisions will build trust between countries and provide a basis for talks to increase ambition to limit pollution and drive clean energy investments.

“The Cancun Climate Summit also made real progress on setting out the rules and processes to reduce emissions from the destruction of tropical forests, drive technology cooperation and unlock billions of dollars in financing to low pollution economic development. It is however disappointing that governments could not agree a 2050 pollution reduction target.

“There is clear evidence that global momentum will continue to be built through actions at the national and sub-national level. An important new initiative announced in Cancun included Norway and Indonesia’s US$1 billion deal to protect tropical forests, beginning with a two year ban on new permits to clear forests. South Africa also demonstrated progress at the national level with draft policy to introduce a national carbon tax to complement their existing tax on pollution from vehicles.

“Regardless of progress in Cancun, in the short-term, governments’ competitive instincts will continue to drive multibillion-dollar investments in clean energy and low pollution technologies as they jostle for poll position in the global clean-energy race.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation
ACF executive director Don Henry welcomed the progress made at Cancún and urged the Australian government to now put its efforts into achieving a price on pollution in Australia next year.

“We are encouraged that developed and developing countries, including the USA and China, have committed to pollution targets in a UN decision for the first time, that a major climate fund will be established and efforts will be made to avoid the destruction of the world’s forests, Mr Henry said.

Key commitments now are part of a UN decision for the first time include:

  • The following developed countries to reduce emissions by 2020: Australia 5 per cent to 25 per cent below 2000 levels, EU 20 per cent to 30 per centbelow 1990, USA 17 per cent below 2005
  • The following developing countries to reduce emissions per unit of GDP below 2005 levels by 2020: China 40 per cent to 45 per cent, India 20 per cent to 25 per cent
  • The following countries to reduce emissions against “business as usual” levels by 2020: Indonesia 26 per cent, Brazil 36 per cent to 39 per cent, Mexico 30 per cent and South Africa 34 per cent

“Crucial ongoing work” was needed to lift the ambition of these commitments. There was also a need for  sources of funds for the Green Climate Fund to be agreed, Mr Henry said.

editorial@thefifthestate.com.au