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Home / NATIONAL FRAMEWORK / Additional information / News / A Near-Consensus Decision Keeps U.N. Climate Process Alive and Moving Ahead
A Near-Consensus Decision Keeps U.N. Climate Process Alive and Moving Ahead

CANCUN, Mexico -- World leaders this weekend hailed an agreement on climate change that commits all major economies to greenhouse gas emission cuts and launches a fund to help vulnerable countries while sidestepping political land mines like the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Cancun Agreements, as the two documents are being dubbed, effectively put meat on the bones of the 12-paragraph Copenhagen Accord that world leaders crafted in Denmark last year. The deal was finished by bleary-eyed diplomats from 193 countries with the exception of Bolivia at 3:15 a.m. Saturday amid a standing ovation. It does not ensure the emission cuts scientists say are needed to avert catastrophic global warming.
But ministers and activists alike said the agreements restored much-needed confidence in the multilateral system and laid the groundwork for serious technology developments to help poorer countries deploy low-carbon energy. For the first time in an official U.N. agreement, countries agreed to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and acknowledged that the emission cut pledges America, China and others made in Copenhagen should be just a beginning.
"The last 24 hours, what we have seen is no less than a miracle," said Maldivian Minister of Environment Mohamed Aslam, whose country of low-lying atolls in the Indian Ocean has led the moral charge for climate action.
"It's a good one," Aslam said of the agreement. "It has all of the elements we have been wanting. Not in as strong language as we would have liked, but it leaves room for strengthening things next year," he said.
As diplomats in the plenary room above made final, pre-dawn tweaks to text, exhausted ministers awaited the final gavel in the lobby of the luxurious Moon Palace hotel. Chinese Minister Xie Zhenhua, his chin to his chest, caught a few minutes of sleep as other members of his delegation dozed and chatted. Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh chatted with a group of Indian journalists who, he said, were accusing him of "caving in to the United States." Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira sat with staff, glasses perched on her nose, reading reports.
"Of course we have a decision that is not perfect, but I think we have a balanced package here. We have good results," Teixeira said.
Jubilation and relief
Throughout the halls, the mood was a mixture of jubilation and relief. Few cast the Cancun Agreements as major step forward, but most said it did repair the damage done to the U.N. climate negotiations by the chaotic and contentious meeting last year in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"We've definitely exorcised the ghost of Copenhagen," said Alden Meyer, director of policy and strategy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, as he hopped back on crutches from the Moon Palace after the initial vote.
"The emotion is a little ahead of the substance, but that's OK. It's a good night," Meyer said. Angela Anderson, director of the Climate Action Network, called it a Copenhagen "do-over."
With U.S. congressional attention barely focused on international climate talks, it remains unclear what impact, if any, the deal will have domestically.
"Nobody knows what the shape of the new Congress is going to be, but it's a positive thing to see a worldwide agreement," said U.S. envoy Todd Stern, calling the agreements a "generally helpful development."
Indeed, analysts say, after what Stern called a "challenging, tiring week of consultations," the Obama administration emerged from Cancun with just about everything it wanted.
The overriding goal for the United States, Stern said, was to ensure that the Copenhagen Accord agreement that Obama and leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa crafted last year survived and took definitive shape. That agreement recorded the promises of major emitting countries to cut carbon and develop a monitoring system to track success or failure. Industrialized countries, meanwhile, would deliver $30 billion in near-term climate aid while raising $100 billion annually by 2020 for vulnerable nations.

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