Article by Guest Contributor: Joelle Westlund

With the closing of the 16th Conference of Parties convention, participants have shelved their decision making until the COP17 in South Africa. Developing countries have left the conferences with reasonable promised support from developed countries and the additional challenge of resisting Japan’s stance on future agreements.

Developing countries did see an agreement materialize which stipulates the establishment of the Cancun Adaptation Framework as well as the process to design the Green Climate Fund. While not a binding agreement, the agreement made important progress insofar as its provisions on adaption, avoidance of deforestation, technology transfers, mitigation and finance. Other decisions that were reached covered capacity building, institutional matters, and the use of standardized baselines in clean development mechanism projects (CDM). The Green Climate Fund is expected to help attract investment in developing countries to obtain technologies to address climate change issues. The Fund reaffirms the commitment to deliver $30 billion in funds through 2012 and to reach $100 billion by 2020. This is expected to help speed up the deployment of clean energy and assist developing countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change.

What is required of developing countries under the agreement is an improvement in their reporting on emissions and actions taken to reduce emissions. Reporting is expected to occur ever two years in attempts to increase counties’ transparency and progress made in their commitments.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has stated “India’s interests [have] been fully protected and enhanced” in the Cancun Agreement despite India’s Center for Science and Environment (CSE) disagreeing with such claims. CSE has said “The agreement is bad for climate change action [because] there is no global emission reduction target for 2050; nor is there a target for peaking year.” However the agreement has a unique emphasis on developing countries adapting to the effects of climate change – something that has not be greatly covered in other accords.

Yet the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol remains at the forefront of debates. Japan has received significant criticism from developing countries that believe that the country is evading its responsibilities. A representative of Uganda proclaimed, “Japan is the mother of the Kyoto Protocol. Do you intend to dump your own child?” However as on U.N. official noted, developing countries have no intention of participating in any international framework that forces them to substantially reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Looking towards the COP17 conference in South Africa, the agreement has demonstrated positive negotiation potential between China and the United States. The two countries, which set off to the conference inflexible and persistent, were able to come to a swift compromise on components of the Cancun Agreement. The key issues addressed by China were the support for developing countries, financially and with technology transfers. These concerns were clearly addressed in the establishment of the Fund, though China stated it would not be accepting financial assistance from the Fund. Other major concerns for China are cooperation and maintaining the structure of previous agreements; all of which became important elements of the agreement.

While these modest advancements may reflect the low expectations for the outcomes of the COP16, they represent important potential for next year’s conference. China and the United States demonstrated their ability to reach substantial compromises towards a potential legally binding agreement. India, as well remains an crucial participant in these negotiations and will no doubt play a significant role in the establishment of agreements in the upcoming conference.

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