The United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico concluded with an agreement on what is needed to avoid climate change in the future.
Though it falls short of making some of the broader changes scientists say are necessary, the Cancun Agreement gives the 190 countries who participated another year to decide whether or not to extend the Kyoto Protocol. (The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 asks that wealthy nations reduce their emissions and help assist developing nations as they make clean energy decisions.) More specifically, the agreement establishes a fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change, creates new ways to share clean energy technology, provides compensation for conservation, and strengthens the emissions reductions pledges that came out of Copenhagen.
Most countries believe that the agreement lays a solid foundation that can be built upon at next year’s conference in Durban, South Africa. Todd Stern, an American representative, says that the package solidified commitments from all nations and cleared up some of the more vague promises made in the Copenhagen Accord.
If you’re thinking that this conference seems a bit lacking (weak) on the details and immediate plans, you’re not alone, but consider what Yyo de Boer, who stepped down as executive secretary of the UN climate office had to say about climate change negotiations: “This process has never been characterized by leaps and bounds. It has been characterized by small steps. And I’d rather see this small step here in Cancun than the international community tripping over itself in an effort to make a large leap.”
Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations echoes this sentiment noting that while the Cancun agreement is not revelatory, it should be respected for its efforts to focus on areas with the most potential rather than the getting lost in the enormity of the problem.