High-Level Ministers Arrive in Cancún, Little Progress in Negotiations

Saturday's COP16 Plenary (photo:UNFCCC)

Delegates at the UN climate change conference in Cancún held “stock-taking” meetings and a key negotiating document was released over the weekend as high level ministers arrived for the final week of negotiations.

The memory of the last-minute deal in Copenhagen was clearly on the minds of many negotiators as the Mexican Minister overseeing the negotiations took the unusual step of scheduling an “informal stock-taking meeting” on Sunday, the only scheduled break in negotiations during the two-week period.

The document released on Saturday did little to resolve major issues related to long-term emissions mitigation and financing, which have plagued the talks for the last year.  One interesting insertion was language pertaining to the Kyoto Protocol.  Developing countries have been adamant about keeping the Kyoto distinction between the two, given the fact that it is a legally-binding instrument that requires emissions cuts by major emitters.

Options in the new document acknowledge the Kyoto framework for countries currently parties to the protocol, but also provides for mitigation actions from the US as well as from the large developing country emitters.

In an ideal world it could continue Kyoto, bring the US to accept Kyoto-like mitigations, and also put developing countries on the record for appropriate mitigation actions.  Early reports suggest this approach may satisfy China.

It is interesting to see this “Kyoto-+” approach emerge in the texts since a middle path between rejecting Kyoto’s second commitment period and starting over has been mentioned for at least the past two years.  It seems to be a testament to the glacial pace of international negotiations.

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