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In Mexico, E.U. Presents Ambitious Agenda for Cancún Climate Talks

Environmentalists express doubts about the possibility of “binding commitments” from the COP16

by Maria Gallucci

Oct 12, 2010

MEXICO CITY—In lieu of signing a treaty to curb global warming, the European Union says it will push instead for “concrete and ambitious results” in six specific sectors at the COP16 meeting beginning next month in Cancún.

Regional environmental groups, however, have set the bar much lower, citing disillusionment after last year’s failed talks in Copenhagen.

Marie-Anne Coninsx, head of the E.U.’s delegation to Mexico, said on Oct. 12 that parties in Cancún must establish solid advances in technology cooperation; international financing; mitigating and adapting to climate change; MRV (measurement, reporting and verification); global carbon markets; and tropical deforestation.

The ambassador outlined the agenda at a press conference for local media ahead of a global press event on Oct. 25-26 in Brussels that E.U. Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and U.N. Climate Chief Christina Figueres are expected to attend.

“We must have concrete results in all of these sectors…to move forward with a binding global treaty at the COP17 in South Africa. If not, the ‘balanced package of decisions’ will be unbalanced,” she said, referring to a term used by Hedegaard earlier this week to describe key priorities for the Cancún summit.

“It is essential that all participating countries present binding commitments in not just one but all of these fields,” Coninsx said. “Europe is prepared to make ambitious and concrete accords in Cancún. We hope that other nations are as well.

“Yes we Cancún,” Coninsx added.

Low Expectations

But Gustavo Aranís, president of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), told SolveClimate News that while he hoped nations would forge a comprehensive legal agreement at the COP16 summit, the E.U.’s goals were overly ambitious.

CEMDA participated in panels in China last week for the Washington-based Climate Action Network (CAN) International. “After the meetings in Tianjin, we realized that negotiations are moving too slowly, and that we’re not reaching any kinds of agreements,” he said.

“At the end of the day, countries have not demonstrated sufficient political will to establish commitments” to policies on these six sectors, Aranís said. “We’re still in an early stage of promoting dialogue and rebuilding confidence following disillusionment at Copenhagen.”

Kelly Blynn, coordinator for the nonprofit group 350.org’s campaign in Latin America and the Caribbean, said many environmental organizations have low expectations for the summit. Blynn anticipated few major advances this year, forecasting the most progress in international financing and the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) program.

Isaac Valero Ladrón, the Mexico delegation’s climate change adviser, said that the lack of success in Copenhagen last year drove the E.U. to work with nations to establish individual policies before confronting the global negotiations.

He pointed to E.U. demands that industrialized nations present clear and concrete data to measure the reduction in their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, calling it an issue of “transparency,” and follow through on their commitments to fast-track financing, the $30 billion pledge made by rich countries to support developing nations in climate change efforts.

Valero Ladrón suggested the E.U. would succeed in convincing wealthy countries to act on climate change by highlighting economic self-interest. “This is key for industrialized nations: to present it not as a challenge, but as an opportunity to transform their economies,” he said.

In 2008, for example, GHG emissions among the first 15 E.U. member states to sign the Kyoto Protocol dropped 6.9 percent from 1990 levels, while the economy grew 45 percent during the same period, according to E.U. data.

E.U. Efforts in Latin America

CEMDA’s Aranís noted the E.U.’s positive efforts in Latin America, especially in knowledge transfer. “The E.U. could play an even bigger role in transferring technology” for renewable energy and public transportation systems, Aranís said.

Responding to rumors that the Kyoto Protocol might be axed in Cancún, Valero Ladrón said, “The Protocol is the most advanced line that we have in climate change negotiations….We don’t consider it to be the most adequate instrument, but we don’t want to kill it either.”

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