Progress Talks at the Cancun Climate Summit

In December 2010, world leaders met at the United Nations climate summit in Cancun to discuss global strategies for tackling climate change. After the questionable success of the Copenhagen summit in December 2009, fingers were crossed that a more binding agreement based on action and not blame, would rise out of the Cancun negotiations.

Although far from perfect, the outcome can certainly be seen as a step in the right direction. The pledges made by rich countries during the last 12 months to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 have now been incorporated into official UN documentation. Crucially though, these pledges need to be made legally binding before actual reductions in emissions can be expected.

A special emphasis also seems to have been placed on the relationship between developed and developing countries, a subject of political debate with regards to which countries should be deemed most responsible for cutting their emissions. Whilst some advocate the transfer of knowledge and technology to newly industrialising developing countries, others describe this approach as a form of neo-imperialism, especially where the ‘climate green fund’ is concerned. The purpose of this fund is to transfer money from the developed to the developing world in order to help manage climate change impacts. However many fear this is ‘too little too late’ and will have political ties, arguing that a greater focus should be placed on the causes as well as the symptoms of climate change, with rich countries taking responsibility for past as well as present greenhouse gas emissions.

Whatever the outcome for the coming year in terms of progress in climate change management, the Cancun summit demonstrates the difficulty but importantly the necessity, of coordinating an international approach to what is a global problem.

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