This December, 194 countries will be in Cancun, Mexico to continue negotiations on international efforts to address climate change. My colleagues and I are in Mexico City this week for a series of discussions with key government officials, NGOs, businesses, and members of the media so we’ve been reflecting on Cancun. The Cancun climate negotiation session (COP16) must serve three critical functions to ensure the continued progress on international climate change efforts and to rebuild some of the trust lost during and after Copenhagen.
First, at Cancun, the international community needs to prove to countries and the world public that it can work together to address climate change. It is essential that countries make some progress in Cancun and show that the international system can work. This is paramount, as a perceived failure will make it even more difficult to build political momentum within the UN system and may lead the public and countries to disengage.
Second, Cancun needs to produce agreement on aspects of the key implementing activities to be delivered by the international agreement –e.g., clean energy technology deployment, deforestation reductions, improving the resilience of countries to the impacts of climate change, etc. While it is unlikely that every aspect of these issues will be resolved in Cancun, it is possible to make significant progress on each of these issues at Cancun. The notion of “nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed” must be set aside in favor of re-establishing confidence by progressively building the agreement component by component.
Third, COP16 needs to produce momentum and enough progress that COP17 (in South Africa) and the Rio 2012 Earth Summit can finalize additional commitments and implementation steps.