Decisions adopted in the wee hours in Cancun today ended two weeks of nail biting and sometimes acrimonious talks where government delegates, ministers and heads of state attended the climate negotiations at the 16th Conference of Parties (COP-16) to the UNFCCC. CAN-Europe cautiously welcomes the mixed but hopeful result in this important stage of the ongoing global effort toward a new international climate treaty and now looks to the EU to increase its climate ambitions accordingly.
“Governments first took one step back but then two forward, all in the face of blocking tactics from industrialized countries like the USA and Japan that could have prevented an agreement,” said Matthias Duwe, Director of CAN-Europe. “But Cancun is not the end of the long walk. The political will for drastic action is still not strong enough for an adequate global response to the threat of climate chaos. But action at the national level shows many countries recognize the need for and the benefits of a green economy, and they must bring this confidence to the UN talks.”
Overall, the Cancun outcome is mixed. On the positive side, a number of specific achievements include the setting up of a Green Climate Fund to assist developing countries, a process for addressing issues of loss and damage caused by climate change and a registry for developing country actions to adapt to climate change and money to support their implementation. The decisions also recognize that current emission targets are not ambitious enough and that they must scale them up and provide more transparency on actual progress.
Several important shortcomings also still remain. The conference did not move forward enough toward answering the question of how the future legal framework will look nor was any time-table established for making this decision. There was also no outcome on additional sources of finance for climate projects or even a process for identifying them. Important loopholes under the Kyoto Protocol (such as leftover emissions rights - or “hot air” - and logging emissions) have not yet been resolved. However, in these talks, another positive development was the EU reasserting themselves as key players in these negotiations.
“We were pleased to see the EU contributing positively on important issues like the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol as well as their push on overall ambition level,” said Ulriikka Aarnio, CAN-Europe Senior Policy Officer. “However, they were not willing to help to close important loopholes, which are hollowing out their calls for more environmental integrity.“
Moving forward from Cancun, much work still needs to be done. Parties need to bring the science back into the UNFCCC process and find ways to bridge the large “gigatonne gap” between current reduction pledges and what is scientifically required to stay below a 1.5°C average global temperature rise. This gap includes the EU’s own current weak emissions reduction target of only 20% below 1990 levels, when a science based target would require at least 40% for the EU.
CAN-Europe now calls on EU decision makers to review and strengthen their positions in time for COP17 next December in Durban, South Africa. The EU has plenty of work to do at home, first and foremost in improving its emissions reduction target. We support ministers from EU Member States like the UK, France, Germany and Spain, which have all come out in support of a unilateral EU move to 30% emissions reductions. Such a move in Europe would set a good precedent for the rest of the world and create an impulse for a strong climate agreement at COP17.
Notes for Editors:
 UNFCCC: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
 Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is a coalition of over 140 citizens’ organisations in Europe working to stop the most dangerous effects of climate change. CAN-Europe is the European node of CAN International, a worldwide network of over 550 environmental and development organisations committed to limiting human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.
CAN International released a document in advance of the Cancun conference outlining global NGOs’ vision for the necessary decisions.