Negotiators from about 190 countries reached a modest set of agreements early Saturday in Cancun on how to tackle global warming but punted some of the most controversial questions for a later date.
A year after U.N.-led talks all but collapsed in Copenhagen, delegates from countries large and small signed off on a package of low-hanging fruit that includes establishing a program to keep tropical rainforests standing, sharing low-carbon energy technologies and preparing a $100 billion fund to help the world’s most vulnerable cope with a changing climate.
“What we have now is a text that, while not perfect, is certainly a good basis for moving forward,” Todd Stern, the top U.S. climate official, said during the all-night bargaining session that culminated in approval of what’s known as the Cancun Agreement.Stern’s reluctant endorsement was echoed over and over into the early morning hours as diplomats scarred by the chaos in Copenhagen accepted a deal that fails to ratchet down greenhouse gas emissions anywhere close to scientific recommendations.
It also fails to establish a firm date for negotiators to reach a conclusion on a new climate treaty.
Diplomats struggled over the last two weeks at the Mexican resort town on some of those key questions and had essentially reached a standoff, forcing them to pick around the edges at ideas like technology, trees and adaptation, all of which could garner sufficient consensus.
The Cancun Agreement, for example, puts off until next year’s meeting in Durban, South Africa, or 2012, the debate over whether to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Russia, Canada and Japan insisted throughout the Cancun negotiations that they wouldn’t agree to a new set of commitments under Kyoto until the world’s three biggest polluters – China, India and the United States – accepted a role in the mandatory system too.