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Milestones on the road to 2012: The Cancun Agreements
 

Delegates celebrating the success of Cancun

The Cancun Agreements constituted a significant achievement for the UN climate process.

They form the pillars of the largest collective effort the world has ever seen to reduce emissions, in a mutually accountable way, with national plans captured formally at international level under the banner of the UNFCCC.

The Cancun Agreements also included the most comprehensive package ever agreed by governments to help developing nations deal with climate change. It encompassed finance, technology and capacity-building support to help such countries meet urgent needs to adapt to climate change, and to speed up their plans to adopt sustainable paths to low emission economies that could also resist the negative impacts of climate change.


What are the Cancun Agreements, in real terms?
 

The Cancun Agreements were a set of significant decisions by the international community to address the long-term challenge of climate change collectively and comprehensively over time, and to take concrete action immediately to speed up the global response to it.

The agreements, reached on December 11 in Cancun, Mexico, at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference, represented key steps forward in capturing plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts and build their own sustainable futures.

Put simply, the Cancun Agreements' main objectives cover:

Mitigation

  • Establish clear goals and a timely schedule for reducing human-generated greenhouse gas emissions over time to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees;

  • Encourage the participation of all countries in reducing these emissions, in accordance with each country's different responsibilities and capabilities to do so.

  • Review progress made towards two-degree objective, and a review by 2015 on whether the objective needs to be strengthened in future, including the consideration of a 1.5C goal, on the basis of the best scientific knowledge available.

 

Transparency of actions

  • Ensure international transparency of the actions which are taken by countries, and ensure that global progress towards the 2C goal is reviewed in a timely way.

 

Technology

  • Mobilize the development and transfer of clean technology to boost efforts to address climate change, getting it to the right place at the right time and for the best effect on both adaptation and mitigation.

 

Finance

  • Mobilize and provide scaled-up funds in the short and long term to enable developing countries to take greater and effective action.

  • Set up the Green Climate Fund to provide support to developing countries to assist them in mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts

 

Adaptation

Assist the particularly vulnerable people in the world to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change by taking a coordinated approach to adaptation.

 

Forests

  • Protect the world's forests, which are a major repository of carbon. Governments agreed to launch concrete action on forests in developing nations, which will increase going forward. The full financing options for the implementation of such mitigation actions in the forest area will be addressed during 2011.

 

Capacity building

  • Build up global capacity, especially in developing countries, to meet the overall challenge;

  • Establish effective institutions and systems which will ensure these objectives are implemented successfully.
Details on the Cancun Agreements
All the details of the Cancun Agreements may be found here.
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The emissions gap: 40% away from safety

All industrialized countries and more than 40 developing countries had submitted official emission reduction targets and actions by COP17. But, in the big picture, the international response was still lacking in a critical area.

The sum total of official emission reduction pledges from all countries amounted to only around 60 percent of what was needed to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, the temperature ceiling that would give us a reasonable chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. 

Note: The following year, in Durban, countries launched a work plan on deepening mitigation ambition, as part of the path they charted towards a new future climate agreement.

 
The big picture

The Cancun Agreements also included a timely schedule for nations under the Climate Change Convention to review the progress they make towards their expressed objective of keeping the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. Governments agreed to review whether the objective needed to be strengthened in future, on the basis of the best scientific knowledge available. This was fleshed out further at COP17 the following year in Durban.

 

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