Copenhagen vs Cancun - United Nations Climate Change Conference
Last year’s United Nations Climate Conference at Copenhagen was marked by high hopes, stubborn dissention and general chaos. This year, in Cancun, Mexico, the meetings seem to be mostly characterized by low expectations and a sense of calm. In fact, the Conference is so low-key, it has failed to garner any attention from local or national news sources, as compared to 2009 when scenes of angry protesters and delegate walkouts dominated the television, newspapers and blogosphere.
This year the meetings main objective is compromising on the extension of the Kyoto Protocol that requires wealthy nations to cut their carbon emissions by 2012 but lacks any stipulations for developing countries. The United States signed the Protocol in Japan in 1997, but the Senate never ratified it, for fear of initiating a massive economic downturn. At Cancun, the U.S. hopes to draft a treaty that sets specific carbon reduction commitments for both industrialized and developing countries. However, poorer countries believe that because the industrialized world is mainly responsible for the current climate crisis, it should be primarily responsible for cleaning up its own mess and for financially aiding developing countries in greener technology and practices.
The main outcome of this years conference will most likely be the establishment of a “fair global climate fund” that will ideally keep rich countries to their promises of “$30 billion in fast track climate funding to poor countries by 2013.” However, according to various environmental panels and researchers, the developed world owes developing nations up to $600 billion a year over 40 years to make up for previous carbon output.
Other potential agreements may be on topics like deforestation and the efficient sharing of green technology. Rich countries are likely to provide financial incentive to cut back deforestation rates and/or ensure that developing countries do not miss out on technological improvements that could cut their carbon emissions.
Until the conference ends this Sunday, we won’t know for sure what its outcome will be. In any case, the lack of media frenzy, high ranking political leaders and expectations ensures that alarmists, skeptics and politicians alike won’t be disappointed. For now, good will and hope are the most we can expect.