Energy Secretary Chris Huhne last week said that “a car crash” in Cancun must be avoided.
He got his wish, and while some think it’s the equivalent of climate action in the slow lane, the outcome of last week’s talks exceeded many expectations… not least Mr Huhne’s.
So what was agreed? The key points of the deal were:
An agreement on peak emissions and an overall two degree target to limit temperature rise;
A deal to bring details of what developed and developing countries are doing to tackle climate change, as promised in Copenhagen, into the UN system so they can be assessed;
The establishment of a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries go low carbon and adapt to climate impacts;
An agreement to slow, halt and reverse destruction of trees and agree the rules for delivering it and for monitoring progress;
And an agreement to set up mechanisms to help developing countries access low carbon technology, and adapt to climate change.
Mr Huhne said at the weekend: “A global climate deal is in the UK’s national interest and Cancun shows other countries also want to get on with getting an international deal.
“We’ve worked hard to bring countries together and the expectations have been exceeded. A global deal on climate change is now back on track. We’ve now got to use this momentum to make urgent progress and lock down that deal.”
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker added: “Cancun will send a strong signal of confidence to business investing billions in the new global green economy. British companies are poised to reap the huge advantage of being the first movers in this rapidly expanding market. We will be working in partnership with the private sector to drive home that opportunity.”
Labour leader and former energy secretary Ed Miliband said the weekend’s agreement “marks a step forward” but added “there is still a huge amount of work to do to cut global emissions by what the science tell us we need to do”.
“Britain and Europe must show the leadership required between now and the climate change conference in South Africa in 12 months’ time to do everything we can to make that happen. That leadership means engagement internationally but also stepping up the pace at home and inspiring people with a positive vision of green jobs and manufacturing which this government is failing to do.”
British business gave a cautious welcome to the Cancun agreement. Neil Bentley, the CBI’s director of business environment, said: “Cancun is a step forward but there is still a long way to go. Businesses are committed to tackling climate change, but there is only so much they can do without a comprehensive global agreement on emissions reduction.
“Such a deal could unlock great new low-carbon markets for our economy, and until this is reached, concerted action will be slow.”
He added: “We must use progress at Cancun as a starter’s pistol for getting a legally binding deal next year that will cut emissions and help drive green growth.”