The United Nations climate change chief on Monday called upon countries to follow up on the recent conference in Cancun, Mexico, with higher global emissions cuts and the rapid launch of new institutions and funds.
The agreements reached at the conference, which concluded in the Mexican city on Dec. 11, include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to tackle deforestation, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.
Delegates at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also agreed to ensure no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the Convention that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.
"Cancun was a big step, bigger than many imagined might be possible. But the time has come for all of us to exceed our own expectations because nothing less will do," said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.
She stressed that the Cancun Agreements need to be implemented as quickly as possible, and be accompanied by "credible accountability systems that will help in measuring real progress."
If all these targets and actions are fully implemented, UN estimates show they could deliver only 60 percent of the emission reductions that science says will be needed to keep the average temperature rise below the agreed two-degree-Celsius limit. And the two-degree limit does not guarantee the survival of the most vulnerable people.
"All countries, but particularly industrialized nations, need to deepen their emission reduction efforts and to do so quickly," said Figueres.
Agreement was also reached in Cancun on a package to help developing nations deal with climate change, including new institutions, funding channels and a technology transfer mechanism to help the developing world build its own sustainable, low- emissions future, adapt more effectively to climate change, and preserve and protect its forests for the good of all nations.
Figueres stressed that these institutions must be launched quickly, noting that millions of poor and vulnerable people around the world have been waiting for years to get the full level of assistance they need.
She added that the UNFCCC will support all governments in this new work, and said she hoped that it will be possible to point to new and concrete examples of success when the parties to the Convention meet a year from now in South Africa.
"I expect in particular to see rapid decisions on appointing the board of the new Green Fund and the Committee of the Technology Mechanism. I also look forward to receiving the details of fast-start financing from industrialized countries so the secretariat can compile the information that shows clearly the amounts that have been raised and are being disbursed," she said.
The Green Fund establishes a long-term climate finance institution for the first time under the oversight of the parties to the UNFCCC and with a 24-member board that balances representation between developed and developing nations.
"Cancun has significantly expanded the menu of climate implementation and resources available to countries under the United Nations," said Figueres. "The imperative to act is now."