Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

Cancun’s big three


With a general consensus that Cancun cannot deliver a binding, all-inclusive agreement, the parties attending the annual climate change summit are now focusing on certain smaller topics. Two days into the conference, there is general optimism that Cancun can deliver on three topics that have been in the air for a while now: adaptation, REDD, and technology transfer.

“No one can afford to stay in inaction and it is very clear that the countries are actually willing to engage to reach something here in Cancun,” said Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC executive secretary.

According to Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in the Climate Change Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the parties are closer than ever in tackling these three issues. So where does each of them stand now?

1) Adaptation: There’s a general agreement that about a third of the fast track fund, 30 billion USD pledged by the developed world in Copenhagen, would go to adaptation. One of the main issues hindering discussions on this front is the infamous MRV (measurement, reporting and verification).

Basically, developing countries want to have assurances and a way to measure and verify that the developed countries are fulfilling their obligations and supplying the money. Developed countries, on the other hand, want to have a say in how this money is spent and to make sure it is going to adaptation projects. The main issue was large developing countries, such as China and India, opposed this as an intrusion into their sovereignty. However, word in the corridor is that the US and China are closer than ever before on reaching a MRV process both can agree upon.

2) REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is a relatively newcomer to the discussions, but certainly a favoured one. It is one of the interventions that are relatively cheap to apply and have a large yield. The basic principle behind REDD is that countries should be compensated for not cutting down their forests, thus keeping them as carbon traps. It is a complicated issue, however, because there is no general definition of REDD that works with all countries, let alone what exactly IS a forest.

3) Technology transfer is one of the issues that have been in discussion for quite a long time now. The governments are trying to come up with a mechanism where developing countries can receive technologies that will help them develop in a clean manner. The main hurdle here is, of course, the issue of intellectual property rights (IPR). However, in an interview with Nature Middle East, Saleemul Huq from IIED explained that the parties are in discussion to come up with a separate technology fund that will actually buy the IPRs and make them available to the poorer nations.

But even if the text on all these three issues is finalized, it will remain just text unless the finance track of the discussions makes enough progress. Otherwise, there will be no money available for application of these issues.

That is why finance and funding are quickly becoming the paramount issue in discussions this year in Cancun. This is the “make it or break it” issue.


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